Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo appears before inquiry of Bingu wa Mutharika's death
Malawi’s Chief Justice (CJ) Lovemore Munlo on Thursday appeared before the commission of inquiry which President Joyce Banda set up to probe the death of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
The inquiry is also looking into events that led to the delayed handover of power to her.
Without elaborating what transpired on Thursday, Munlo’s lawyer Samuel Tembenu on Monday confirmed his client appeared before the Justice Elton Singini Commission of Inquiry.
A source close to the Judiciary said Munlo appeared as one of the people to give information on what he knows about the demise of Mutharika and whatever transpired between April 5 to April 7 2012 when the death was officially announced.
Said the source: “You can only know the content of his presentation and indeed presentations from all other people that are appearing before the commission after the report has been released because it will be a public document, but all I can say is that it will be an interesting report.”
Immediately she came to power, President Banda alleged in an interview with The Guardian newspaper of the UK that she knew about a coup plot through a Cabinet minister who officially told her that there was a plan by judicial and Cabinet ministers to machinate the swearing-in of Peter Mutharika after the death of his brother.
Banda told The Guardian: “By that time, the Chief Justice and some judges were sitting at Peter Mutharika’s house waiting for a court order in order to swear him in.
“All Cabinet ministers were there too...But somebody called one minister to say: ‘We don’t know whether you know what’s going on, but Joyce Banda is here and now it’s looking real, so whatever you are doing elsewhere will be looked upon as treason.’ At that point, 15 ministers abandoned that place and came running to my house.”
However, in what was said not to be a response regarding the substance of the allegations against the CJ, a statement from Munlo’s lawyers Patrice Nkhono and Samuel Tembenu said the head of the Judiciary believed the allegations against him were made in bad faith and out of malice.
Munlo, in the statement, denied involvement in the alleged plot to block Banda, who was then Vice-President, from ascending to the presidency.
“The allegation of the involvement by the Honourable Chief Justice is an allegation made against a person holding a constitutional office in Malawi. It is important for various reasons, including constitutionalism and observance of the rule of law, that the constitutional due process be applied strictly in this matter,” said Munlo through the lawyers.
Three journalists also appeared before the commission at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe last week.
The inquiry wants to establish, among others, the cause of Mutharika’s death, medical attention available to him at the time of death and the role and activities of various individuals during and in managing the transition.