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Attorney General at Supreme Court over Peter Mutharika’s decision

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President Peter Mutharika’s (APM) failure to suspend former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, while he was being investigated for his alleged involvement in the importation of maize from neighbouring Zambia comes this Wednesday before a panel of three Supreme Court of Appeal judges, both the state and defence lawyers have confirmed.

Judiciary spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, said the panel of three Supreme Court of Appeal judges will comprise Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, Justice Edward Twea and Justice Frank Kapanda.

The High Court in Mzuzu on January 31 ruled that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should proceed with a judicial review on Mutharika’s decision but Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against Justice John Chirwa’s decision.

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In an interview Monday, Kaphale said although Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Dunstan Mwaungulu vacated an injunction that stopped Chaponda from performing his duties while he was still minister, there is still a legal issue that needs to be determined.

“The Supreme Court of Appeal needs to determine the limits of judicial intervention into presidential [and] ministerial appointments and removals,” Kaphale said.

Among other things, Kaphale argues in the state’s submissions that the lower court erred when it failed to find that presidential powers of appointment, suspension or dismissal can only be reviewed on narrow and limited grounds.

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He also argues that Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Church and Society of Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP and Youth and Society (Yas)— some of the CSOs that took the matter to court over the President’s failure to make the decision— did not have sufficient interest in the case.

Lawyer for the CSOs, Victor Gondwe of John Tennyson and Associates, confirmed receiving a notice on the Supreme Court of Appeal hearing.

He said as defence in the matter, they will maintain the arguments they presented to the High Court in Mzuzu.

“The lower court said it was proper that leave for judicial review should be granted so that the matter could be properly determined. The Supreme Court wants to hear whether it was proper for leave to be granted. We are ready to respond,” Gondwe said.

At the High Court in Mzuzu in January, Chirwa ruled that matters raised by the CSOs were very important and significant enough to warrant a judicial review.

Justice Chirwa also ruled that Cedep, Church and Society and Yas have sufficient interest in the matter.

Meanwhile, Executive Director for Cedep, Gift Trapence, has protested the decision by the state to proceed with the matter, describing it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

He wondered why Kaphale is intervening on issues of Chaponda who is no longer minister.

“Why is the Attorney General fighting for Chaponda, who is no longer Cabinet minister? This, to us, is abuse of taxpayers’ money. The two inquiries that were set up to probe the Zambia maize import deal recommended that Chaponda should be investigated. We need Chaponda to be arrested within 30 days, as the Public Affairs Committee resolved, and not waste taxpayers’ money,” Trapence said.

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