George Chaponda ruling on Friday
Lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa who is representing some civil society organisations in a case in which the government through Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale wants the Supreme Court to vacate injunction restraining Agriculture Minister, George Chaponda, from executing his duties, has observed that the outcome of the case will be a litmus test to the country’s democracy.
The case came for hearing before Justice Dunstan Mwaungulu at the Supreme Court in Blantyre yesterday after Kaphale filed an application dismissing an earlier ruling by the High Court in Mzuzu last week. The ruling sustained the court order restraining Chaponda from serving as minister.
“How will the future generations judge us, the Supreme Court is the highest court on the land and it needs to make safeguards on how some of these things need to be done. This is not a personal issue but constitutional in nature. Justice should not just be done but be seen to be done. This case is a test to our democracy,” Mwafulirwa told the court.
But Justice Mwaungulu, who has reserved his ruling for Friday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, said he has disregarded the urgency of the matter in order to study further the arguments as raised by both parties.
Mwaungulu also admitted that he is aware of the interest generated by the public and would not make a hasty determination because he wants to treat the matter with all the seriousness it deserves.
“If it goes back to the lower court and it comes back to me, the public will think I am playing games. Why should I send people back when I have a jurisdiction. Explain why I can’t proceed,” he said.
Mwaungulu said he found a lot of discrepancies in the wording of some of the documents presented before his court adding that the High Court in Mzuzu might have as well overlooked some of the inconsistencies.
For instance, Mwaungulu observed that according to documents brought before the court, the civil society leaders who are pushing for the continued suspension of Chaponda erred because the group wrote that President Peter Mutharika should resign instead of Chaponda.
“You asked the president to resign and not the minister according to the documents before this court. What was sought and what was granted are different,” Mwaungulu observed.
The lawyer admitted the anomalies as printing mistakes and urged the court to disregard them saying the appropriate amendments should be made.
On his part, Kaphale emphasised on the fact that there was no need for the court to delay vacating the injunction arguing that Chaponda already appeared before the joint parliamentary committee yesterday and therefore poses no threat to interfere with the ongoing investigations as alleged by respondents.
The AG further brushed off assertions that Chaponda is likely to tamper with evidence as some of the commissioners appointed in a Commission of Inquiry instituted by Mutharika are civil servants who are junior to the beleaguered minister.
Justice Mwaungulu also posed some questions to both parties such as whether the injunction sought by the CSOs might not have gagged the commission from summoning Chaponda.
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