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Government withdraws Chief Justice’s ‘leave’

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The government has withdrawn a public notice by the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration which sent Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on leave pending retirement.

A public notice from Chief Secretary to the Government Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi says government is withdrawing its earlier decision on the matter.

“The Honourable Andrew Nyirenda, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Malawi has not proceeded on leave as was announced on 12 June, 2020,” the statement reads.

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Zanga-Zanga has also reaffirmed that Nyirenda continues with his duties as Chief Justice.

“Regarding the accumulated leave days of the Honourable Chief Justice, it is a matter between him (the Chief Justice) and the Judicial Service Commission,” the statement says.

Last month, then- Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara, a Judge himself, wrote the Office of the Chief Justice directing that he proceed on leave pending retirement as he had accumulated more days than his leave could allow.

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Justice of Appeal Edward Twea also received similar communication.

The development resulted into a rift between the then Peter Mutharika led Executive branch of the government and the Judiciary in the country.

Various stakeholders including the Malawi Law Society and the Judiciary itself strongly spoke against what they called interference in operations of the country’s Judiciary by the Executive.

Lawyers also held demonstrations in major cities across the country in protest against the decision by the Executive arm of government to send Nyirenda on forced leave pending retirement, among others.

Many individuals also opined that the Executive arm of government had no authority to meddle in the affairs of the country’s judicial service.

Lawyer Khumbo Soko has said government made a wise move because the initial notice was ill-advised, irrational, malicious and brazenly unconstitutional.

Efforts to speak to Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agness Patemba proved futile.

But Patemba is on record to have told the BBC that the Judiciary could not oblige to the directive by the Executive arm of government then.

“The Chief Justice is still in office because the directive has no basis and the Executive has no such powers to put forward such a directive,” Patemba is on record to have said then.

The Mutharika-led administration had been at loggerheads with the Judiciary since a court judgement nullified the May 2019 presidential election consequently ordering a fresh presidential poll which saw Tonse Alliance presidential candidate and Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera emerging winner.

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