Access to justice still a nightmare at 59 years – legal expert

Alexious Kamangila Malawi

As experts continue gauging the state of affairs after Malawi clocked 59 years of independence, a legal expert says the country has made some progress on legal framework but expressed worry about access to justice which he says still remain a challenge.

The legal expert, Alexious Kamangila, who is a Lecturer at the University of Malawi, was speaking on how the country has fared on legal matters in the past 59 years since independence.

In an interview with Malawi24, Kamangila started by applauding the country for making some strides on legal affairs and said the development of Malawi’s Constitution is the apogee of the country’s legal system progress.

He said despite the authoritarianism in the 1966 Constitution which was replaced by the current legal document, there were a number of key institutions established for the functioning of the state.

Despite describing the Malawi Constitution as one of the best in the world, Kamangila said the challenge is that the national legal document is hardly listened to.

“So when we look at the 1964 Constitution, which was replaced by the 1966 Constitution, we can say from infancy, we have been progressive as a nation. That said, the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, which is our current legal regime, is the one of the best Constitutions in the World.

“Despite having some hangover of one party system, through retaining some powers to the President which should have been taken away from one person, if we are to follow our Constitution by a mere 40% of its spirit of Constitutionalism, we would be in a far much better place. But we are very poor at listening to our Constitution, which is a living document always guiding us on the aspirations of the people of Malawi,” explained Kamangila.

Kamangila further mentioned the development of election laws despite 30 years of one party rule and 29 years of multiparty democracy as one of the success stories.

He was, however, quick to point out the country’s law making process which he said leaves a lot to be desired and further said access to justice still remain a challenge.

While cautioning the Law Commission on time over Bills processing, Kamangila said there is need for investment in the accountability of the Judiciary through a new legislation on the Judicial Service Commission, saying without which, the country’s systems can be manipulated at will.

“On the other hand our law making processes has left us stuck with laws that have become obsolete. Again, access to justice is a nightmare for the majority of the population, and that’s a huge hiccup to Constitutionalism and legality

“We need to revamp Law Commission to be time cautious etc and never to have a situation like that of the Prison Bill and other legislations who upon processes for their amendment, find themselves on shelves accumulating dust ending up requiring amendment before legislating them into law, if at passed,” he added.

Kamangila could not end the conversation without mentioning the need for the country to abolish death sentence “NOW” which he has been advocating for.

“Well, the death penalty should have been abolished in 1994, but I think there was not enough introspection and civic awareness on the matter. 29 years later, Malawi has no excuse for not abolishing the death penalty. Therefore, the death penalty should be abolished NOW,” said Kamangila.

He concluded by saying Malawi will truly celebrate independence when most destitute members of the society can at least afford the basics; Food, Shelter and clothes saying; “independence without economic freedom is largely a mockery”.

Kamangila then encouraged Malawians to never undermine the country’s progress or doubt the capacity and ability to improve the country.

Malawi which was formerly Nyasaland, became an independent member of the British Commonwealth on July 6, 1964, and adopted a republican constitution two years later.