President Lazarus Chakwera has committed to protect the independence of the Supreme Court of Appeal amid attacks against the institution in the country and globally.
The President said this in Lilongwe on Friday when he presided over the swearing-in of four Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal justices who were appointed last month.
The newly-sworn-in justices are Sylvester Kalembera, Dingiswayo Madise, Rowland Mbvundula and Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga.
Chakwera observed that the Supreme Court all over the world was facing attacks which undermine its authority.
He said: “The second thing I see in the attacks on the independence of Supreme Courts around the world is the fact that there is still much work to be done to consolidate respect for the independence of governance institutions, so this is one area we in Malawi must resolve to lead the world by example.”
The President further said that he will not publicly criticise decisions of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
Said Chakwera: “While the Malawian people are free to express their views on any of your rulings, which is important to maintain public trust in the accountability of the Judiciary as a public institution funded by taxpayers, I believe that my unique responsibility as President is to always promote and protect the independence of your court.”
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Rizine Mzikamanda, in an interview after the swearing-in, said despite the President’s commitment, the Judiciary was not afraid of criticism.
“We heard the commitment and we are looking forward to that commitment. However, just bear in mind that we are not afraid of criticism. In fact, constructive criticism is what we need,” he said.
The President has also urged the new justices to stick to constitutional requirements in executing their duties.
“The work of a Supreme Court Justice is not for the fainthearted, but for the brave and just, and my encouragement to you, my Lady and my Lords, is to have the courage to let nothing but the Constitution move you in your determinations on the bench,” he said.
Commenting on the addition of new Supreme Court justices, Mzikamanda said their promotion will address challenges of continuous adjournments.
Said the Chief Justice: “Work will now get speeded up and so we think we have a better future with these, compliment of more judges.”
The appointment of the four Justices of Appeal has brought the total number to 11, including justices Mzikamanda, Lovemore Chikopa, Frank Kapanda, Ivy Chatha Kamanga, Healey Potani, John Katsala and Charles Mkandawire.
The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal is supposed to have 13 justices as per its establishment, but 11 is still regarded as full bench.