Malawi President Joyce Banda has asked the High Court to dismiss an injunction that effectively stopped her from distributing maize to underprivileged Malawians which was happening during the campaign period.
Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) sought the injunction which was granted by the High Court in Blantyre, stopping the President from personally distributing public maize during her campaign rallies for the People’s Party (PP).
MHRC, which also sought an order for the President to refund money to government equivalent to the maize already distributed through her PP, described Banda’s actions as illegal, unconstitutional and unreasonable.
But the President, through the Attorney General’s (AG) office, filed an application last week asking the High Court to grant a stay order on the MHRC injunction.
Tisungane Makato, a senior State advocate, told the court the President began distributing the maize as soon as she ascended to the presidency in April 2012 and that this has always been public knowledge.
Said Makato: ” [MHRC] has waited until now to apply for judicial review without applying for leave of the court to do so out of time.”
He said MHRC was deliberately silent as to when the impugned decision began so as to assist the court when applying for leave to assess whether the application was in conformity with the rules.
Makato said the court only needs to balance the convenience of starving people until the hearing and determination of the application against maintaining the status quo which is that the distribution of maize should continue.
He said the public and mass starvation threatened by the MHRC cannot be quantified in monetary terms and damages will not be an adequate remedy.
MHRC, with only 13 days to the tripartite elections, applied for judicial review against the State and the President on the matter and an injunction was granted.
MHRC also wants the President to disclose sources of the maize, the amount and criteria used for distribution.