The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by civil society organisations (CSOs) to replace Malawi Law Society (MLS) in the case against Khato Civils on the multi-billion kwacha Salima-Lilongwe Water Project.
Through lawyer Bright Theu, the CSOs—Youth and Society (YAS) and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)—appealed to a full bench of nine appeal judges against a decision of a single Supreme Court judge Lovemore Chikopa dismissing their application on December 22 2017.
In his judgement, Chikopa said YAS and CHRR could not join the case then because proceedings between MLS and Khato Civils—the contractor—were no longer in existence after leave had expired.
Yesterday, a seven-judge panel chaired by Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and comprising appeal judges Dunstan Mwaungulu, Anaclet Chipeta, Edward Twea, Rezine Mzikamanda, Frank Kapanda and Anthony Kamanga upheld Chikopa’s decision, saying there was no basis of an outside party joining proceedings which were nullified.
Reading the decision on behalf of the panel, Mwaungulu said: “We will give a detailed and formal conclusion which we have arrived at in due course. But for now, this court resolves that there are no proceedings which the interested parties, excluding Khato, should be joined to.”
In their submissions, lawyers Chancy Gondwe for Khato Civils, Pempho Likongwe representing Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) which was the first respondent and senior State advocate Neverson Chisiza representing Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Environmental Affairs Department and Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, had also argued that the CSOs had no sufficient interest in the matter.
In an interview after the decision, Theu expressed shock at the dismissal.
He said: “If we were able to succeed at this point, the fundamental public interest that was to be pursued was exactly about the case that is at the High Court, which is whether a developer who has not done an environmental impact assessment [EIA] can commence work before it is conducted but also an approval not only from one ministry but at least two.”
But contrary to Theu’s sentiments, Gondwe expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the hearing.
In a separate interview on the outcome, Mwandida Theu, an officer from YAS, said they welcomed the determination made by the court.