President Lazarus Chakwera has appointed four Supreme Court of Appeal judges out of which one is female and a record 12 High Court judges of which six are female. This means out of the 16 Judiciary appointments, seven are women, representing 43.75 percent.
The Gender Equality Act— which the President was accused of flouting in the recent appointments of statutory corporations board members—directs that each gender should not occupy less than 40 percent and more than 60 percent of seats in public institutions.
In a letter announcing the judges’ appointments, which are effective October 20, Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Janet Banda, says Healey Potani, John Katsala, Ivy Kamanga and Charles Mkandawire are heading to the Supreme Court.
This brings the total number of judges at the highest court to 12.
Banda’s statement further states that Agnes Patemba, Justus Kishindo, Violet Chipao, Anneline Kanthambi, Vikoshi Chima, Mzonde Mvula, Simeon Mdeza, Masauko Msungama, William Msiska, Maureen Kondowe, Mandala Mambulasa and Charlotte Malonda have been appointed judges of the High Court.
The record number of appointments has come at a time various stakeholders have been calling on the government to increase the number of judges at the High Court to address the backlog of cases in the country’s justice system.
Meanwhile, some commentators have described the appointments as a move in the right direction.
Dean of the Faculty of Law at Chancellor College, Sunduzwayo Madise, said in an interview Monday evening that the appointments is a great step in addressing inadequate judges and gender disparities concerns.
“This is the first time a President has appointed 12 judges to the High Court; so this is a landmark, first in terms of the number and second, equal representation of both genders.
“Justice delivery will be enhanced as the workload will be shared among many judges as you are aware that judicial officers have been complaining about heavy workloads. This is a win for Malawians,” Madise said.
Activist Viwemi Chavula, who is also Country Director of the 50-50 Management Agency, has also welcomed the appointments, saying for the first time, Malawi has achieved equal representation of men and women in High Court appointments.
“Of course, it is not just about appointing women just for the sake of it, but we are happy that the women that have been appointed are women of substance. We salute them and the appointing authority and hope that the Supreme Court will follow suit,” Chavula said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako has said government is serious on women empowerment.
“It is a process, not an event. This is why we asked the women of this country to be patient and give their government time to ensure we work together to galvanise this process that is meant to last for generations,” Kazako said.
He added that Chakwera has embarked on a process of social construction that will see women in positions they have longed to be.
“President Chakwera is addicted to the habit of keeping his word and when he has decided to do something, he does not shake with any force contrary to what he wants to achieve. He proves his decision by actions,” Kazako said.
The newly appointed judges are expected to be sworn in before they can take up their new positions.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.