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Malawi Law Society joins Martha Chizuma case

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The Malawi Law Society (MLS) is challenging a decision by Mzuzu Senior Resident Magistrate (SRM) Godfrey Nyirenda and has applied for a judicial review in the High Court in Blantyre.

Acting Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court Kondwani Banda confirmed the development in a telephone interview, saying MLS seeks a judicial review, aside from the criminal review that was sought by Chizuma’s lawyers in Lilongwe.

SRM Nyirenda ordered investigations into the authenticity and criminality of the leaked audio conversation between a person suspected to be Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma and another person.

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Following the ruling, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni asked the Inspector General of Police George Kainja to comply with the order, which saw police summoning Chizuma for interrogation last week, a decision which was later rescinded.

In the application and additional sworn statements signed by the society’s president Patrick Mpaka and secretary Chrispin Ngunde, MLS argues that the said magistrate did not have jurisdiction to preside over the matter.

They say the magistrate also failed to provide and record reasons justifying the order he made, a situation they say amounts to failure to discharge his constitutional and statutory mandate.

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“We seek a declaration that the decision of the respondent ordering the Malawi Police Service in consultation with the office of the DPP to carry out investigations for purposes of finding out whether the charges, as proffered by the complainant, against Ms Chizuma are tenable at law without recording reason for doubting the truthfulness of the complaint is unconstitutional, unlawful, unjustifiable, ultra vires and in excess of jurisdiction,” the application reads.

The society has said the manner in which the order of the magistrate was made seems to be assisting the applicant in the Mzuzu case— namely Frighton Mphopho— by bearing the burden of proof and ordering investigations instead of dismissing the matter.

When contacted Mpaka did not pick up our calls.

Commenting on the alleged offence by the ACB boss, namely revealing official information to a third party, Mpaka said in an interview earlier this month that, as a public institution, it is impossible for the ACB to operate without interacting or sharing information with the public or other parties.

“…As we said in the statement in January all official secrets and confidentiality laws must be seen and construed in light of the Constitution… by reason of which, under Section 37 of the Constitution, the people of Malawi are entitled “to access all information held by the State or any of its organs at any level of government,” he said.

This comes at a time the High Court sitting in Lilongwe has granted a stay order to Chizuma’s lawyers against the purported interrogation and execution of the Mzuzu court order pending review of the same.

The matter comes for hearing before Judge Annabel Mtalimanja after parties that wish to be heard were asked to file skeleton arguments.

On January 23, a telephone conversation alleged to be that of Chizuma and another person went viral.

In March this year, Mphopho commenced legal proceedings against Chizuma in Mzuzu on grounds that she reportedly revealed official information of her office to a third party.

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