Malawi: Call for Malawi Law Society President to Step Aside From Election Matters Over Credibility Concerns

5 August 2019

A governance expert Makhumbo Munthali has called on president of Malawi Law Society (MLS) Burton Mhango to step aside from election case and matters arising, saying MLS is facing collateral damage by virtue of him being a brother to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legal advisor Charles Mhango.

Makhumbo: Credibility concerns

Munthali told Nyasa Times in an interview that: "While Malawi Law Society president is a brilliant and professional gentleman the very fact that he is related to DPP legal advisor may raise credibility concerns of Law Society and conflict of interest."

The governance commentator said Mhango should step aside from the election case and let his vice or other executive member lead.

"While there is no indication of any inappropriate action, Malawi Law Society should lead by example to avoid any suggestion of collusion or conflict of interest.

"The election case is a sensitive one and public perceptions matter in this. It would do him more good as well as the MLS for him to step aside from the case," said Munthali.

Munthali clarified: "I am not saying he should resign but rather only step aside from the case based on his relation to DPP legal advisor and the principle of conflict of interest."

Further, Munthali said MLS president should also step aside on all post-election related matters.

"Otherwise, MLS is in my view currently struggling with public trust issues on post-election matters largely because it's president is a brother to DPP director of legal affairs.

"And as such any statement or intervention from Law Society on the post-election crisis is largely viewed by the public not based on merits or demerits but rather with suspicion of the president being a brother to DPP legal affairs director."

Munthali pointed out that the danger is that Burton may be a victim of circumstances in this highly sensitive issue, and the earlier he steps aside on the issue the better

"He has a legacy and reputation to protect," he said.

MLS recently issued a letter which has painted a gloomy picture of the country's economy due to the political impasse following the announcement of the May 21 Tripartite Election results.

The Law Society said its position is based on the fact that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah is refusing to resign.

UTM Party and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are disputing the May 21 presidential election results while Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) is continuing with demonstrations until MEC chairperson Ansah resigns for allegedly mismanaging the results.

Last month, MLS issued another letter, urging political parties, including President Peter Mutharika, to prepare their followers for the outcome of the case which may go either way.

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