The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has said President Peter Mutharika might be found on the wrong side of the law if he approved the suspended Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda’s trip to Germany.
A High Court order restrains Chaponda from performing ministerial duties.
The order was obtained by civil society organisations that sought the court’s intervention to pave the way for smooth operations of the Commission of Inquiry instituted by President Mutharika to probe alleged anomalies in the purchase of maize from Zambia.
However, Chaponda flew to Berlin, Germany, on Thursday. He is reported to have used a ministerial ticket to attend the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) International Conference.
In a post on facebook, Chaponda said his trip was sanctioned by Mutharika.
MLS Honorary Secretary Khumbo Soko, speaking on Times Debate on Sunday programme on Times Radio, said if Chaponda is, indeed, performing ministerial duties on his trip, both him and whoever approved of his trip are in contempt of court.
“It does not matter if the trip was organised before the court order but if it has been effected while the order is existing, they [all respondents: George Chaponda, President Peter Mutharika and Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale] are on the wrong side of the law. We know that such a trip cannot be without the approval of the highest authority. So, whoever approved this trip while they are aware of the court order, has violated the law, either the President or other seniors in the office of President and Cabinet, because no one is above the law,” Soko said.
He also said that government is sending a wrong message to Malawians as people might follow its steps and start disrespecting orders of the courts.
Soko said Chaponda can as well be jailed if organisations that applied for his suspension filed a contempt of court case against Chaponda.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Centre for the Development of the People, Gift Trapence, and Charles Kajoloweka of Youth and Society—whose organisations sought the court’s intervention on Chaponda’s continued involvement in his line ministry—have said they will file a case of contempt of court against Chaponda.
“We will go to the court tomorrow (Monday) to start filing the case of contempt of court. Malawians should know that we are more than ready. We are dismayed that the President has aided the violation of the Constitution, and, so we are expecting the law to take its course although we know the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] does not respect the law,” Kajoloweka said.
Judiciary spokesperson, Mlenga Mvula, said when evidence shows that somebody is in contempt of court, there is no time for the offender to defend themselves or use lawyers.
Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi is quoted in our sister paper, Malawi News, as saying that he is not aware of Chaponda’s trip to Germany.
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