Attorney General (AG) Charles Mhango yesterday snubbed the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs which summoned him to a hearing over his failure to comply with an order to compensate over 19 000 victims of the one party State.
In an interview yesterday, committee chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said the AG told the committee that he would not appear before it as he was in Blantyre where the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was holding its convention.
He said: “The Attorney General responded to our invitation that he is not able to appear before the committee because of other commitments. We wanted to check with him this morning if he would be available but he said that the nature of his job is that he is supposed to be where the President is; as such he has failed to appear before the committee.”
In a telephone interview, Mhango sounded furious and refused to comment on the issue.
He said: “Who told you the committee invited me? In fact, it did not invite me, but it invited the Solicitor General.”
Probed further, the AG said he would respond to the committee and not the media.
“You are not the Legal Affairs Committee. I will talk to the committee over the issue and not you,” he said.
The committee has since resolved to summon the AG again in August this year, when it will have another schedule of meetings.
According to Thyolera, Mhango will risk arrest if he does not appear for the hearing again.
He said: “We resolved that we should summon him again, but if he fails to appear we have our Constitution which empowers us to subpoena such individuals or an officer. There are also other consequences which can follow, including issuing a warrant of arrest that can be done by Parliament. I hope that he will co-operate when we invite him again in August.”
Commenting on the issue, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma observed that if the AG had complied with the determination, government would have finished paying victims by March this year.
Said Chizuma: “Unfortunately there is no single payment which it has made. It is the principal office that was supposed to ensure compliance of the report. The best we can do is to continue until one day when we have a turnaround of the situation that we have because at the end of the day, this impunity that is happening at Capital Hill makes Malawians to suffer.”
The Office of the Ombudsman released a report titled Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds on investigations into allegations of maladministration and other irregularities by government over the manner in which the National Compensation Tribunal (NTC) was set.
The office determined that 23 000 one-party victims should be compensated but government has not yet complied with the determination, a development that forced the Ombudsman to report the AG to the committee for action.
Recently, analysts blamed government for its lack of commitment to compensate the victims, 16 000 of whom are Jehovah Witnesses members. n