President Lazarus Chakwera has challenged 16 newly-appointed judges in both the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court to continually expand their legal knowledge and uphold the rule of law.
Chakwera, whose administration has appointed the largest cohort of judges in the country’s history, was speaking after the judges took their oaths of allegiance at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Thursday.
From the High Court, justices Ivy Kamanga, Healey Potani, Charles Mkandawire and John Katsala were elevated to the Supreme Court while Agnes Patemba, Justus Kishindo, Violet Chipao, Anneline Kanthambi, Vikochi Chima, Mzonde Mvula and Simeon Mdeza were promoted to the High Court from within the Judiciary.
From private practice, Masauko Msungama, William Yakuwawa Msiska, Maurine Kondowe, Mandala Mambulasa and Charlotte Wezzie Malonda were appointed to the High Court bench.
In his speech, the President called on the judges to uphold the virtues of knowledge expansion, courage, peace and truth to avoid the perversion of justice in resolving disputes.
He said: “Today, you have taken the oath of office to uphold the rule of law and advance the cause of justice.
“Since we live in a fallen world in which many work to frustrate, obstruct, pervert and subvert justice, it takes uncommon bravery to resist such forces and see justice done.”
In an interview, Kondowe, a former Malawi Law Society honorary secretary, said she is looking forward to serving Malawians in her new role.
She said: “Coming from the private sector, this means I have come with a lot of experience, which also means that I will have to interpret the law into context. I will not only have the knowledge of law, but also the practical reality regarding how industries operate and are regulated.”
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, in a separate interview, described the swearing-in of judges as a memorable occasion in the history of the Judiciary because this was the largest number of judges joining the service at once, a development he said will help reduce the work load.
He said there is a burden of work which emanated from the marathon elections case in which Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima challenged the then president Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission over a fraudulent process in the May 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Commenting on how the Judiciary will deploy judges, Nyirenda said they will be deployed in all regions, adding that those coming from the private sector shall be given time for a proper transition of management and handover of their firms.
The appointments have raised the number of judges from 27 to 35 in the High Court and from seven to 11 in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
However, there is still a shortfall of 10 in the High Court which is supposed to have 45 judges, according to Patemba who was registrar of the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court also has a shortfall of two as its establishment is 13 judges. One of the Supreme Court judges Jane Ansah is on leave pending retirement, which also means it will have only one female judge, Kamanga.
Although it was evident that there were few judges, former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara sent on forced leave Nyirenda and Justice Edward Twea pending retirement, a move that was seen by many as an indirect way of retiring the two who had played roles in the elections case former president Peter Mutharika had lost.
Nyirenda and Twea are expected to retire next year.
Justice Kamanga and Potani were among the five Judges who tried the election petition case, while Mkandawire directed that Chakwera and Chilima election petitions be merged into one case.