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Malawi judiciary, overturns President’s Office bid to put Judge Nyirenda on forced leave

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Malawi’s government has placed Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda, on leave weeks before an election re-run ordered by the courts.

However, the judiciary stood its ground and opposed the move by the President’s Office to force the Judge to go on forced leave pending retirement.

Nyirenda led the court that annulled President Peter Mutharika’s election victory last year and ordered a re-run.

The new election is scheduled for June 23. The order has been challenged in court and will now be taken under judicial review. It won’t be enforced until a ruling is made.

The judge, who was due to retire in September 2021, was ordered to go on leave because he was said to have had accumulated more leave days than the remainder of his working days until retirement, the government announced in a statement on Sunday.

President Mutharika can now appoint a replacement.

“This is wrong. It’s got to do with the election,” said Wesley Mwafulirwa, a human rights lawyer in Malawi who is acting on behalf of the chief justice. “The president himself has been going flat out against the judiciary.”

Mutharika’s election victory was marred by a raft of irregularities, including the alteration of vote counts.

The decision marks only the second time an African nation has annulled a presidential ballot, and has been hailed as a boost to democracy on a continent where political processes are often abused.

The election was overturned after the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, led by Lazarus Chakwera, and the United Transformation Movement, headed by Saulos Chilima, approached the courts.

Edward Twea, who is a supreme court justice, was served with a similar letter to that given to Nyirenda by the government, according to a statement issued by 42 African lawyers and organizations.

We “call upon the executive branch of the Government of Malawi to respect the independence of the judiciary, especially at this time when Malawi is heading towards the re-run of the presidential election,” the group said.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Malawi, 64, has been forced into retirement on account of age albeit not reaching 65 the retirement age.

Nyirenda is the judge who annulled that country’s latest election citing widespread irregularities and fraud forcing the country to go for a rerun election slated for the 23rd of this month.

President Peter Mutharika had narrowly won the May 21, 2019 vote.

The development was announced in the government’s public notice which reads:

PROCEEDING ON LEAVE PENDING RETIREMENT

Government wishes to inform the general public that the Right Honourable Andrew K. C. Nyirenda, S.C., Chief Justice of Malawi, will proceed on leave pending retirement with immediate effect.

The Honourable Chief Justice has accumulated more leave days than the remainder of his working days to retirement date.

in accordance with the Constitution, the most senior Justice of Appeal will act as Chief Justice until such time as His Excellency the President will appoint a successor.

Lloyd A. Muhara CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT 12th June, 2020.

Meanwhile the country’s judiciary system has issued a statement saying Judge Nyirenda will continue to discharge his duties despite attempts by the Executive to force him to go on leave pending retirement.

The statement signed by the High Court contradicted the statement from the President’s office seeking to send Judge Nyirenda on forced leave.

-Agencies

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31