Malawi: HRDC Says Chief Justice Has Saved Malawi From Health Risk of South African Lawyers

President Peter Mutharika (file photo).
13 April 2020

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has welcomed the decision by Chief Justice Andrews Nyirenda to dismiss an application to admit to the Malawi bar of two South African lawyers that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) engaged for the presidential elections appeal case , saying their presence could have been violating Malawians' right to health in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19).

There were reports that MEC sneaked in the South African lawyers Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Elizabeth Makhanani Baloyi-Mere amid travel restrictions.

MEC'S Director of Legal Services, David Matumika Banda, said their foreign lawyers were not in the country to be part of the application to allow them represent MEC in the appeal case.

HRDC acting chairperson Gift Trapence said South African lawyers needed not to be accorded with special treatment by exempting them 14-day quarantine.

"Government should not abuse power to threaten the right to health of Malawians because of their case. The issue of being quarantined should not be selective. You can't prioritize your case over the lives of Malawians," said Trapence.

He observed that the decision by MEC to bring in South African lawyers at the time Malawi is grappling with rising cases of Covid-19 shows how greedy and selfish authorities at the Commission are.

"This only shows how selfish MEC is over the right to health and life of Malawians. As Malawians, we should not tolerate that inhuman behaviour. Some people are just so heartless. They don't care about Malawians," Trapence stressed.

MEC chairperson Jane Ansah--who is also a judge in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal-- said the commission hired the foreign lawyers to defend the May 2019 presidential election results that the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) nullified on February 3 2020 after most local lawyers who were approached turned down.

Meanwhile, MEC's lawyer hired from private practice, Tamando Chokotho will represent the electoral body when the appeal case begins on Wednesday.

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