Law Society faults govt on dismissals of public officers
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) says it has noted with concern some irregularities in the appointment and removal of certain public officers or heads of public bodies.
A statement issued on Thursday in which the lawyers’ body commented on general issues says while affirming that the relevant authorities have powers to appoint and remove holders of diverse public offices, it is expected that the dictates of the law will be fully complied with in doing so.
Says MLS: “We hope for instance, that where it is sought to remove a holder of a public office who can only be so removed on grounds specified in the law, such a holder will only be removed if any of the specified grounds have arisen.
“In any event, rules of natural justice as well as all requirements of procedural justice as stipulated in various labour laws should be upheld at all times.
“Furthermore, the society wishes to remind all holders of both public and political offices that they can only exercise such powers as are allotted to them by the law and no more.”
MLS gives an example of fired Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) director general (DG), observing under Section 92 (2) of the Communications Act, the DG of MBC can only be lawfully appointed by the Board of the Corporation and not the Head of State.
President Joyce Banda fired former MBC DG Bright Malopa and replaced him with veteran broadcaster Benson Tembo a few days after she ascended to power on April 7 following former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s sudden death on April 5.
The President has fired several other Mutharika’s appointees and close allies to the fallen leader. Some dismissals have been costly as government will have to pay some of the dismissed officers up to when their contracts would have expired.
In the statement, MLS commends Parliament for repealing several laws the passing of which the society had objected either on the basis of their unconstitutionality or on the basis of absence of adequate pre-enactment consultations.
These laws include The Civil Procedure (Suits by or against the Government or Public Officers) (Amendment) Act and the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names (Amendment) Act.
The society also expressed happiness with government’s intention to repeal provisions in the Penal Code relating to indecent practices and unnatural offences.
Reads the statement: “The society, however, wishes to point out that contrary to what has been said in some quarters consequent to the announcement of the intended repeal, repealing the said provisions will not amount to legalisation of same sex marriages in Malawi.
“Marriages in Malawi are celebrated under the Marriage Act, the Asiatics (Marriage, Divorce, Succession) Act and under customary law and not under the Penal Code. If the said Penal Code provisions are repealed, it will only result in the decriminalisation of conduct that currently falls under what are known as ‘indecent practices and unnatural offences’.”
The society also commends the current administration for publicly renouncing the shoot-to-kill policy adopted by the previous administration for officers of the Malawi Police Service to shoot armed suspected criminals with the intention to kill. It reads: “It must be stated that the said policy was unconstitutional in so far it amounted to a blanket order to the Malawi Police Service to kill all armed suspected criminals on sight without any legal justification.”