Former secretary to the President and Cabinet, who is also High Court Judge Lloyd Muhara is no longer presiding over cases until criminal charges he is facing are concluded.
Coincidentally, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma ordered the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to assess the suitability of Muhara to serve as a judge in the High Court of Malawi.
However, Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Gladys Gondwe said Muhara was stopped from taking cases even before the calls from Ombudsman and some concerned lawyers were made.
“Actually his being directed not to discharge his judicial functions was not based on the Ombudsman’s directive. This one came later. It was on the basis of the fact that he is answering to criminal charges. The Ombudsman’s directive and the issues raised by concerned lawyers are the ones currently being handled by the JSC,” she said.
Gondwe could not say whether this is interdiction but said Muhara was on full pay.
This is not surprising because, on April 29 this year, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) asked the government to tread carefully on the issue of interdiction without pay.
MHRC Executive Secretary Habiba Osman urged the government to adhere to legislation on interdiction after the government indicated that public workers interdicted in connection with the alleged mismanagement of Covid funds would not be receiving salaries.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) added its voice to the issue.
MLS President Patrick Mpaka said courts made a decision which clearly states that interdiction without pay is contrary to the laws of Malawi.
In February this year, Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe advised the Department of Human Resource Management and Development to reinstate on the payroll civil servants who were interdicted without pay.
Muhara will, therefore, continue to get his benefits in line with the country’s laws.
Gondwe, said on Muhara, they were being guided by JSC.
“The JSC directed that he should not perform any judicial functions until the matter is concluded. The matter here refers to the criminal matter he is answering to,” she said.
Muhara was named in the K57.7 billion emergency power generators deal which the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) awarded to Aggreko in November 2017, allegedly without following procurement procedures.
The deal to hire the emergency power generators was initiated by Escom before it [the deal] was cancelled and handed over to Electricity Generation Company and then handed back to Escom, where it was awarded to a company that was earlier rejected because it did not follow procedures.
Muhara was also faulted, together with former president Peter Mutharika, for attempting to send Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on forced leave pending retirement.
Apart from the Ombudsman and JSC, some of the country’s lawyers also demanded action on Muhara
A letter, which counsel Bright Theu signed, indicated that Muhara’s service at the heart of the Executive branch of the government and allegations of abuse of office compromised his integrity as a judge.
The letter moved MLS to move JSC to institute disciplinary proceedings against Muhara.
“After holding and performing [in] the office of Secretary to the Cabinet, Judge Lloyd Muhara’s resumption of duty as a judicial officer is a serious affront to separation of powers, compromises the independence of the Judiciary, and puts the integrity of the administration of justice by him into serious question and opprobrium,” the letter reads.
Muhara was also involved in attempts to get rid of the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda SC and Justice Edward Twea SC, JA.