A week does not go by without one member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) putting his or her foot in the mouth and Tuesday was the turn of President Peter Mutharika at the swearing-in of two new judges of the High Court.
It is the president’s view that Malawians should not be seeking the court’s intervention when aggrieved with the government.
According to the professor of law, it is “unreasonable and irresponsible injunctions” that are destroying this country and anyone obtaining them against the government lacks patriotism.
His remarks take us back to June 2011, when at the height of his unpopularity, the current president’s brother Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration introduced what came to be popularly known as the Injunctions Bill.
The bill, which later became law, effectively stopped any individual or entity from obtaining ex-parte injunctions against the government.
Bingu could be excused for his lack of foresight; after all he was an economist with questionable knowledge of the legal profession or the Constitution for that matter.
The same cannot be said of the current Mutharika with over 40 years experience teaching the law and having touted himself as one of the original drafters of the Malawi Constitution; the same Constitution whose Sections 41 and 43 clearly spell out every citizen’s right to access justice and legal remedies.
His remarks make one wonder that if it were not for the vigilance of the public and fear of falling into the executive arrogance habits of his brother, there would be in existence right now another form of the Injunctions legislation.
What should be described as unreasonable and irresponsible is the president’s thinking, which by extension is an attempt at denying the people of this country access to justice.
What should be described as unreasonable and irresponsible would be the injunction that his lawyer, and one time Attornery General Kalekeni Kaphale obtained on May 25 2014 stopping Malawi Electoral Commission from conducting a vote recount.
Having noted that something was amiss in the counting and possibly transmission of the voting results, Mec asked for a 30-day extension to declare the results so that a recount could be carried out.
Because of an injunction, we will never know the difference that the results of the 58 polling centres which had a bloated number of votes cast against registered voters would have made to the 2014 election results.
So it could be argued that it is unreasonable and irresponsible of the courts to grant this injunction that made him president of this country on that day.
Had it not been for then President Joyce Banda and the DPP being in opposition in 2012, the Injunctions Act would have been in effect; the vote recount would have happened and where would the DPP be today?
It is because of injunctions that the DPP can enjoy its illegal relationship with the United Democratic Front because Section 65 cannot be implemented when at the first peep of a petition, the court’s intervention is sought.
Injunctions saved the senior Mutharika from impeachment in 2005 and ensured that the 40 members of Parliament that he stole on exiting the UDF remained in the government benches to push through his agenda.
Injunctions, by this reminder to the DPP and President Mutharika, have been one method to obtain immediate relief when a government becomes autocratic in its handling of people’s civil liberties.
It would be folly and hypocritical of the president and his DPP administration to begin to castigate injunctions because it does not suit their purpose now that the shoe is on the other foot.