Churches under the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) have accused President Peter Mutharika of attempting to undermine and capture the Judiciary by forcing the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to retire.
This is contained in a statement released on Saturday by EAM’s Ethics, Peace, and Justice Commission (EPJC). The statement has been signed by EPJC chairperson Pastor Zacc Kawalala and has been endorsed by five other pastors who are commissioners of the EPJC.
The statement notes that Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, on Friday informed the general public that Chief Justice of Malawi Andrew Nyirenda will proceed on “leave pending retirement with immediate effect.” Muhara claimed that Nyirenda has accumulated more leave days than the remainder of his working days to retirement date.
According to the EPCJ, the Chief Secretary has also written another senior Justice of Appeal Justice Edward Twea informing him to proceed on leave pending retirement.
EPJC said it considers these actions by the Executive Arm of government through the Chief Secretary as unconstitutional and also a clear executive attempt to capture some lawful powers of the Judiciary at a critical time when Malawi is about to hold the Fresh Presidential Elections on 23rd June 2020.
“We are reliably informed that the tenure of the Chief Justice Andrew K.C. Nyirenda and Justice Twea runs up to December 2021 and April 2021 respectively. As such they cannot be forced to resign now even if the pending leave days are factored in.
“The Chief Justice cannot go on the bidding of the Executive. It has to be the decision of the Chief Justice to leave early, not imposed on him by the Executive. And the announcement from Chief Secretary is totally erroneous and it amounts to executive attempts to undermine the independence of Judiciary in order to pursue narrow selfish political interests,” the EPCJ said.
The commission added that it suspects that these executive attempts to undermine and capture the Judiciary are part of a bigger political scheme spearheaded by the current President to frustrate the holding of a free, fair and credible elections on 23rd June 2020.
“This observation is further grounded in the fact that the State President, has unsuccessfully fought tooth and nail to stop the holding of the Fresh Presidential Elections through delayed firing and reappointment of MEC Commissioners, attacking the Judges in public, failure to assent passed electoral Bills, and the just recent DPP MPs dissatisfaction with the fixing of the date for the election,” the commission said.
The EPCJ then demanded that Chief Justice Nyirenda and Justice Twea should continue to discharge their duties until the end of their tenure
It also urged all stakeholders including the Judiciary, Civil Society, Malawi Law Society, faith community, development partners and entire general public to remain firm and defend Malawi’s Constitution and democracy in this critical time
The commission further asked President Mutharika to work towards supporting the free, fair and credible elections instead of standing in the way to block the people from exercising their right to vote on 23 June 2020.
The commission also told Malawians to pray that righteousness and justice prevails in the nation. It quoted Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”