Recently, President Peter Mutharika, on recommendation from the Judicial Service Commission, appointed Judge Anthony Kamanga as Justice of Appeal of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal. Anthony Kamanga speaks to The Nation on his new appointment and other issues.
Q: How does it feel to be appointed to the highest court of the land?
A: I feel greatly honoured and humbled for the trust reposted in me by His Excellency the President [Peter Mutharika], and also, the Judicial Service Commission, on whose recommendation the President appointed me to the bench of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal as Justice of Appeal. I have no illusions of the challenges that come with the position of Justice of Appeal; it is an onerous responsibility. I will endeavour to serve to the best of my ability and with the same dedication and diligence as I hope I have served in other positions that I have held while in the civil service, and in accordance with the Oath of Office which I took before the President on February 10 2015.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I graduated from Chancellor College with Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (with credit) in 1978; graduated from University of Toronto (Canada) with Master of Laws (LLM) in 1982; Attended a six-week course in International Law at the Hague, Netherlands under the auspices of the Unitar followed by a four-week internship at UN Legal Affairs Division in New York and a 12-week internship at the Legal Division (Africa Region) of the World Bank, in Washington DC in July 1984; graduated from University of Ottawa (Canada) with a diploma in legislative drafting in 1993, and have certificates from several short courses attended over the years.
Q: Your career has span over three decades, working in various positions such as chief parliamentary draftsman, law commissioner, solicitor general, secretary for justice and attorney general. How has the journey been?
A : Exciting, challenging, and definitely fulfilling. There is a saying which goes “you only grow through challenges”. I joined the Ministry of Justice straight from Chancellor College in 1978 as a State advocate. I rose through the ranks of senior State advocate, principal State advocate, assistant chief Parliamentary draftsman and chief parliamentary draftsman over a period of 14 years. I served as chief parliamentary draftsman for close to 12 years. I left the ministry when I was appointed Law Commissioner, a position I held for 11 months and returned to the Ministry as solicitor general and secretary for justice in 2007. I had served as solicitor general and secretary for justice for over five years when I was appointed attorney general, a position I occupied until May 30, 2014. By the time I was appointed attorney general in December, 2012, I had served for 35 years, and I had exhausted the professional hierarchy in the Ministry of Justice.
In the over 37 years as a civil servant, I have had the honour to serve under MCP, UDF and DPP governments. During that period, like every civil servant, I faced, and survived, numerous challenges, but our memories always mellow with times, and perhaps the challenges are inconsequential.
Thanks to the mentorship and encouragement of the likes of Justice James B. Kalaile SC JA (retired) and Justice Elton M. Singini SC JA (retired) and many others, too many to mention, who tutored and encouraged me all along. I progressed fairly well in the civil service; and of course, as one of my colleagues recently remarked, the Lord has been kind to me, and has guided and shielded me!
Q: You have taken part in landmark events: drafting of bills, constitutional reviews; where you input has been invaluable. What has been the secret?
A: Some people would not agree that my input has been invaluable. But, in my view, the function or role of the civil servant is to SERVE, and a lawyer in the civil service serves best by being and remaining professional and objective; provide only professional and objective legal advice and recommendations on whatever legal issue arises; never take sides on political issues—leave the politics to politicians—and never provide political advice. Provide professional and objective advice even if you know that your principals will not be pleased with it. Above all, be truthful!
With respect to the reviews of the laws, including the review of the Constitution, listen to the voice of the representatives of the people— and ensure that legislation reflects or embodies the expressed wishes of the people of Malawi. So, perhaps, there is no secret really. It is all to do with diligence, dedication to duty, and professionalism—as well as appreciation of one’s place and role as a civil servant in the process.
Q: Your coming to the Supreme Court adds depth to the bench. How do you expect to beef up the bench?
A : We are fortunate to have a competent and dedicated Supreme Court of Appeal bench; so, perhaps, the issue is not how I would beef up the bench. I, nevertheless, hope to make my own contribution it terms of sharing the workload of the court and participating in and contributing to the resolution of other challenges that may exist.
Q: You once openly said that the Ministry of Justice was failing to operate smoothly due to inadequate resources.
A: It is true that at the time [I made that statement], the Ministry of Justice was failing to operate smoothly because of lack of resources. Actually, our entire Democratic Governance Sector continues to be under-resourced; and that adversely affects the smooth implementation of programmes aimed at uplifting lives of Malawians.
Q: What is your opinion over the stand-off between judicial staff and government over salaries and benefits?
A : The apparent current impasse between the Executive and Judiciary regarding the remuneration of judicial officers, as reported in the media, is obviously a matter of grave concern. However, I am reliably informed that discussions between the competent authorities to resolve the matter are ongoing, and I am most certain that the issue will be resolved expeditiously.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: Oh, remembered for what? In my considered view, legacies are for politicians not public officers or judicial officers!
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: Ha ha!!! I raise chickens… for sale.
Q: Any other points you may wish to add?
A: I would like to thank you for your kind and flattering sentiments expressed during this interview regarding my perceived achievements during my career.
I must say that I would not have come this far without the support and encouragement of many people, too many to mention. I am, of course, most honoured and humbled to have been appointed as a Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the Lord willing, I will endeavour to perform my new duties with dedication and diligence.