The Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF) has urged Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara to withdraw the “offensive notice” placing Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on forced leave.
The SACJF has made the demand in a statement dated June 15 and signed by Hon. Mrs. Justice Irene C. Mambilima, Chief Justice of Zambia.
On Friday, Muhara issued a public notice announcing that Nyirenda had gone leave pending retirement and that a new Chief Justice would be appointed by the president. He also wrote a letter to Justice of Appeal Edward Twea telling him to go on leave pending retirement.
In the statement, SACJF said the decision for a judge to go on leave pending retirement should be made voluntarily by the concerned judge, in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission.
The group also noted that it is the Chief Justice and or the Judiciary who if they wish communicate to the public such decision.
“We therefore urge the Executive in Malawi to withdraw the offensive notices of placing Chief Justice Nyirenda and Justice Twea on forced leave and make an appropriate public announcement about such retraction,” the group says.
Chief Justice Nyirenda’s constitutional tenure of office is supposed to come to an end in December, 2021, while the constitutional tenure of office for Justice Twea expires in April, 2021.
The attempts to illegally fire Nyirenda and Twea come a month after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the nullification of the 2019 presidential election in which President Peter Mutharika was declared winner.
The elections were first nullified in February by the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court which found that the polls were marred by unlawful and unconstitutional actions as well as irregularities.
Following the nullification, Mutharika has been attacking the courts saying the judges did not prove that the irregularities affected the results if the elections. The Malawi leader has also been claiming that Judges are part of a plot for regime change.
In the statement, the SACJF said the purported placement of the Chief Justice and Justice Twea on leave pending retirement, is an attempt to interfere with the independence of the Judiciary in Malawi.
“The Executive efforts to place judges on involuntary leave pending their retirement is ultra vires the Executive powers, violates the constitution, the security of tenure of the Judiciary and separation of powers.
“We wish to remind the Government of Malawi that respecting judicial independence is not a cloistered virtue. It must be seen to be practiced in order to ensure the confidence of the people in the judiciary,” the group said.
The Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum is composed of Chief Justices and equivalent judicial leaders of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.