Malawian Judiciary Rejects Government Bid to Sideline Top Judge

(Bloomberg) --

Malawi’s judiciary rejected a government attempt to sideline the chief justice days before a court-ordered rerun of presidential elections.

The government on June 12 told Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to take time off until his retirement next year, saying he’d accumulated more leave days than his remaining work days. Nyirenda led the court that in February annulled the 2019 reelection of President Peter Mutharika, who described the ruling as a miscarriage of justice.

The judiciary disputed the government’s estimate of the number of leave days due to Nyirenda and said he will continue to discharge his duties. It also challenged the government’s right to interfere in the workings of the courts.

“Once a judge is appointed, all other matters relating to welfare and discipline fall within the exclusive province of the judiciary,” it said in a statement. “After the appointment thereof, the executive is not involved in the internal affairs of the judiciary.”

The statement came after Malawi’s High Court issued an injunction blocking the government from implementing the directive. The case was brought by the Malawi Law Society, the Association for Magistrates in Malawi and the Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

Mutharika’s election victory was marred by a raft of irregularities, including the alteration of vote counts. The decision to cancel it marked only the second time an African nation annulled a presidential ballot, and was hailed as a boost to democracy on a continent where political processes are often abused.

Edward Twea, a judge in Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal, was served with a similar letter to the one given to Nyirenda by the government, according to a statement issued by 42 African lawyers and organizations.

“The chief justice and justices of appeal shall continue to discharge their functions as per their constitutional mandate,” the judiciary said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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