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CSOs give govt March 31 deadline on judges

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At least 40 Mzuzu civil society organisations (CSOs), nongovernmental organisations and faith-based organisations under the umbrella Mzuzu Civil Society Network (MCISON) and Malawi Law Society (MLS) North Chapter have given government a March 31 deadline to deploy two more resident judges to the High Court in Mzuzu or face unspecified action.

The network said yesterday at a news conference in Mzuzu that the Chief Justice only sent visiting judges to Mzuzu for only one week when the same complaint was raised last year.

“The sudden death of Justice Godfrey Mwase in early 2015 has created a huge gap for effective and efficient justice delivery at Mzuzu High Court. MCISON expected government, through the Judiciary, to immediately fill the vacancy created by the sudden demise of Justice Godfrey Mwase but until now the vacancy is not filled. This has created an enormous workload for the only resident Judge at Mzuzu High Court.

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“For instance, in 2015 besides the criminal cases, there were 522 civil cases registered at Mzuzu High Court Registry but only 185 cases were concluded while 337 are still pending.

Justice delayed is justice denied and this situation is tantamount to serious violation of human rights,” a member of the network, Felix Manda, said as he read a statement signed by the network members, including MLS.

Manda, who is also an officer at the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Mzuzu Diocese, said when the lone Mzuzu Judge Dingiswayo Madise routinely leaves his office to attend to homicide cases and other duties in the districts of Northern Region of Malawi, a vacuum is created and residents have nowhere to go for interim relief or injunctions.

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“This scenario again is tantamount to serious violation of human rights for the affected citizens,” he said.

Manda said: “We shall not buy government’s statement that it does not have adequate judges in the country.

Why should Blantyre have 10 resident judges, Lilongwe seven, Zomba two and Mzuzu only one? The presence of only one judge in Mzuzu compromises justice delivery and is a gross violation of human rights to the citizens.

“We demand in strongest terms two more resident judges to be deployed by March 2016. We are not giving an open cheque to the President on this one.

We are in a very bad situation here in Mzuzu,” said Manda.

When reminded that President Peter Mutharika said he does not work according to ultimatums, another member of the network, Muteyu Banda, said in any civilized country, people will work by timelines to achieve their objectives.

“If the President chooses to be insensitive to this ultimatum, I wonder if we are at all democratic. The President should not hide his failures to tackle issues behind ignoring ultimatums. That will not help this country,” said Muteyu.

Judiciary spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, admitted that the High Court in Mzuzu needs additional judges since the death of Mwase in January last year.

He said the people in the North have a genuine complaint and that it is costly to have visiting judges to Mzuzu.

“Government and the appointing authority are doing all they can to appoint new judges for Mzuzu. This is a listening government and the concern will be solved to ensure speedy handling of cases in Mzuzu,” said Mvula in an interview.

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