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HRDC, others threaten lawsuit over boards

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Four non-governmental organisations, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Women Lawyers Association, Youth and Society, and NGO Gender Coordination Network have given the government seven days to reconstitute all boards that have failed to comply with the law.

In a notice dated September 27, 2020, to the Secretary to the President and Cabinet and copied to the Attorney General and the Public Appointment Committee of Parliament, legal counsel for the four Wesley Mwafulirwa of Kawelo Lawyers said his clients conducted a gender demographic analysis of the appointments.

According to the analysis representation of women in the boards falls short of meeting the legal and policy framework obtaining in Malawi.

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Among others, the analysis shows that of all the 67 boards, only seven have female chairpersons and that over five boards do not have any female representation at all.

In the case of the Malawi Environmental Authority, out of seven appointments, only two are female.

“This is against clear wording of section 10(1) (a) of the Environmental Management Act which provides that the gender composition of the Authority shall not be constituted of more than 60 percent of one gender. We are mindful that the appointments will have to be approved by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament” reads part of the notice.

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“For example, over five Boards do not have any female at all. The attached analysis further shows that only about 11 out of the 54 boards analysed have no gender being more than 60 percent of the other gender. Further, of all the 67 boards only seven have female chairpersons.

It is the position of the organisations that the status quo violates section 13 (1) of the Constitution as read with section 20 of the same constitution and section 11 of the Gender Equality Act.

“Most importantly the next appointments of the non-complying boards should comply with their specific enabling laws as well as the Constitution as read with the Gender Equality Act. Be advised that unless the non-compliant boards are reconstituted within seven days from the 27th of September, 2020, we have instructions to seek legal redress against the appointments. Our instructions include seeking interlocutory orders and costs for the action,” reads the notice further.

In an interview, HRDC chairperson, Gift Trapence, said all they want is respect of the law.

“The issue that we are raising is about women representation. What we have noted is that this Gender Equality Act is being violated among other laws. The rule of law has to be respected. This is not the first time we have raised issues such as these to the government. You remember when the government-appointed commissioners for Malawi Human Rights Commission during the reign of President Peter Mutharika, these are matters that are being repeated and it has to happen that way,” he said.

But in an interview Attorney General, Chikosa Sulungwe said he had not yet seen the notice hence could not comment.

President Lazarus Chakwera Wednesday last week announced the appointment of a new board of directors for 67 parastatal organisations.

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