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Association condemns Peter Mutharika’s attack on judges

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By Wezzie Gausi:

Peter Mutharika

President Peter Mutharika has once again come under heavy criticism over his continued attacks on judges of the High Court that heard the presidential election petition case as a constitutional referral and justices of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal panel of seven judges unanimously upheld the High Court’s decision to nullify the 2019 presidential poll and order a fresh one within 150 days from February 3 when the first judgement was delivered.

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In his immediate reaction to the first judgement, Mutharika went to town on the judges and described their decision as a sad development in the country’s democracy.

He repeated the sentiments after the Supreme Court delivered its judgement early last month. And delivering his State of the Nation Address (Sona) last Friday, Mutharika once again accused the Judiciary of trying to instigate regime change through the election judgements.

But in a statement released yesterday, the Magistrates and Judges Association of Malawi (Majam) has condemned the president for championing the attack on the judges and the Judiciary in general.

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The statement is signed by Majam President Howard Pemba and the association’s Secretary- General Peter Kandulu.

“It is our considered view that these continued attacks on the judges by the State President seriously undermine judicial independence and coming from the first citizen have the ability to spur this country into a state of lawlessness should the citizenry opt to emulate the attitude exhibited by the highest office.

“For example, the State President in his Sona purports to say that Parliament is above the Judiciary. According to the Constitution, the three branches of government are interdependent. Therefore, it is not true that Parliament is above the Judiciary.

“This has to be corrected as it is misleading the public. There is no parliamentary supremacy in Malawi. We are in a constitutional democracy where the Constitution is supreme,” Majam says in the statement.

It adds that all what the judges did was to carry out their duty as called upon by the law and that as a professor of law, Mutharika was supposed to rise above petty politics and to act as a model to his subjects in upholding and respecting the rule of law.

According to the judges’ and magistrates’ association, Mutharika’s sentiments are a vivid display of disrespect for the court’s judgment and therefore a threat to judicial independence and the doctrine of separation of powers “which are primary characteristics of a democracy”.

Several other institutions including the Malawi Law Society have previously censured Mutharika over his attack on the judiciary, arguing, among other things, that judges deliver their decisions in open systems and base them on the law as seen in the judgements

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