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Commission of inquiry illegal—lawyers

The inquiry into the suspicious import of maize from Zambia by the Malawi Government could suffer a blow as The Daily Times has established that it has not yet been gazetted.

According to the Commissions of Inquiry Act, after its appointment every commission of inquiry is supposed be recorded in a government gazette which is a publication of business and proceedings of government authorised, among others, to publish public and legal notices.

Section 14 of the Act states that: “Every Commission under this Act, and all alterations thereof or revocation of such Commission, shall be published in the Gazette, and shall take effect from the date of such publication.”

But The Daily Times has established that the Commission which was set up by President Peter Mutharika last month, has not been gazetted.

Senior Printer at government press, Lector Hamisi, confirmed in a telephone interview yesterday that the department was yet to print a notice on the commission.

“There were delays a t the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. So it took some time for us to get the orders to do the printing. But we are printing I was on the call with the officials a while ago and we should be completing by close of business today,” said Hamisi who referred us to the Ministry for their explanation on the delay.

Minister of Justice, Samuel Tembenu, and the Ministry’s Spokesperson, Apoche Itimu, did not pick their phones after several attempts.

Contrary to the provision of the Act, first week into its appointment, the Commission officially commenced its inquiry on January 10, 2017 which among other things included summoning people to provide it with information surrounding the procurement of maize from neighbouring Zambia.

The legal minds that we have spoken to, say the development makes all operations by the Justice Anastasia Msosa led commission illegal and in breach of the country’s legislation.

“Going by the Act, a commission of inquiry is not effective until it has been gazetted, so this means all the hearings that have been conducted before are not credible,” said one lawyer who opted for anonymity and referred us to the Malawi Law Society (MLS) for comment on the legal implications of the development.

MLS Secretary Khumbo Soko’s phone went unanswered while the society’s President, John Suzi Banda, asked for more time.

Last week, Justice Msosa announced an extension of the commission’s reporting deadline from January 31 to February 9.

Meanwhile the Commission is scheduled to submit its findings to Mutharika this afternoon.

Secretary of the Commission, Mike Chinoko, confirmed the development in a telephone interview yesterday.

“The State House has given us a slot tomorrow [today] at 4pm to present the findings. The state will be in a position to decide the modality on how the report will reach Malawians, our mandate ends at the submission,” he said.

Chinoko said that the Commission had time for further investigations in Zambia but declined to identify the people it interviewed.

However, Chinoko, described the task as intensive looking at the deadline and interest the issue has attracted.

“It was quite intensive on our part and you can appreciate that with the tight deadline we had. I am saying this also considering all the evidence that had to be covered within the time. There were challenges along the way but that has been mentioned in the report and I cannot pre-empt here,” he said.

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