Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Mzuzu, Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Legal Affairs Committee and Malawi Law Society (MLS) have blamed Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda for reducing the people of the Northern Region to beggars of justice.
The three bodies have since demanded swift allocation of additional judges to Mzuzu Registry of the High Court.
The demand comes hot on the heels of Lilongwe High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire’s order last week to Leonard Kabatika Chipeta for a judicial review against Nyirenda and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the allocation of judges to the region.
The CSOs, in a petition addressed to Nyirenda and copied to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, say the Mzuzu Registry of the High Court leaves a lot to be desired as regards protection of people’s rights to access to justice as enshrined in Section 41 of the country’s Constitution.
The CSOs, Youth and Society, CCAP Livingstonia Synod, Foundation for Justice Support for Victims, Phunzirani Development Foundation for Equal Rights and Opportunities, Foundation for Children’s Rights and Women’s Lobby, also protest against transfers of Judges John Chirwa and Dingiswayo Madise to the Principal Registry of the High Court in Blantyre without replacement, a situation they say has left Judge Dorothy de Gabrielle the sole judge serving a population of over three million people in the Northern Region.
They also contest the revival of visiting judges to the registry, noting that the idea has been tried and tested but has proven ‘too costly’ on taxpayers and unsustainable.
The CSOs also question what they say is a failed transfer of Judge Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa to Mzuzu Registry who was earmarked to replace Madise and Chirwa.
“We strongly question your indecisiveness to timely act on the matter three months after the transfer of the two Judges.
“In fact, that some Judges have the nerve to turn down the transfers by the highest office in the Judiciary raises deep questions about the effectiveness and functionality of your office and the Judicial Service Commission,” the petition reads in part.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula reiterated judiciary’s concern over the shortage of judges in the Northern Region.
He said, as a measure, Justice Usiwausiwa has now been given a vehicle and that very soon he will be taking up his role.
“Very soon he will be coming to Mzuzu Registry of the High Court to assume duties of judge. I can confirm that Justice Usiwausiwa has been given a vehicle that has delayed his deployment and is ready to report for duties,” Mvula said.
But Usiwausiwa said: “I can’t comment on the vehicle issue because it is part of a ‘transfer package’ as you may wish to call it. And I also take judicial notice that the very way the honourable the CJ [Chief Jusitice] is transferring judges – that administrative action – is under judicial review somewhere. So, ethically you can’t have an interview from me on the issue. Mr Mlenga Mvula should assist you.”
Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Maxwell Thyolera described the situation in the North as very unfortunate.
“People in the North are being denied justice. It is a situation that needs swift action so that adequate judges are allocated,” Thyolera said.
Meanwhile, MLS has said that it will keep engaging the judiciary on the allocation of judges to the Northern Region.
MLS Secretary Michael Goba Chipeta said they have lined up a series of meetings with Nyirenda on the matter.