The High Court has questioned laws under which President Peter Mutharika used to declare, Malawi a state of national disaster in the face of Covid-19.
Delivering a ruling after an inter partes hearing of the application of Chinese nationals Lin Xiaoxiao, Liu Zhigin, Wang Xia, Tian Hongze and others, against their deportation Justice Kenyata Nyirenda said the laws on the declaration of state of national disaster are archaic and cannot be applied in 2020.
“Honestly, the very thought of declaring a state of disaster without even bothering to tell Malawians the law under which the declaration is made is taking Malawians for granted. The framers of our Constitution knew pretty well that Malawi would, at some point face disasters. They, accordingly, put in place constitutional provisions for handling such disasters,” he said.
The detention of the Chinese nationals followed President Peter Mutharika’s declaration that Malawi was a State of National Disaster in the face of Covid-19.
Justice Nyirenda said Malawi’s legislative regime governing Malawi’s response to disasters is not only archaic and obsolete but it is also in total shambles.
“Almost all, if not all, applicable laws are completely outdated. Needless to say, the coronavirus epidemic has caught the authorities with their pants down. How the authorities expect to effectively combat the epidemic in 2020 with laws enacted in 1948 (Public Health Act), 1964 (Immigration Act) and 1991 (Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act) boggles my mind,” he said.
Lin Xiaoxiao, Liu Zhigin, Wang Xia, Tian Hongze and others were challenging their detention and imminent deportation to China as the state contended they come from a coronavirus hotspot nation.
Justice Nyirenda granted an ex parte injunction against the Department of Immigration before the matter was heard inter partes after the Department of Immigration and the Office of the Attorney General applied to have the injunction discharged.
In the ruling dated April 3, 2020 following the inter partes hearing, Justice Nyirenda sustained the injunction stopping the state from deporting the claimants.
Malawi has registered four cases of Covid-19, a diseases which has infected over 1 million people, killing over 60, 000 in the process.
In his address to the nation on April 4, President Mutharika announced a number of measures to fight the spread of the virus including tax waivers, reduction of fuel prices and recruitment of health personnel.