Malawi’s most revered governance and human rights expert Undule Mwakasungula, has backed calls by President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera to have comprehensive review of the Constitution of Malawi to address inconsistencies and gaps in the entire law.
In his speech at the National Anti-Corruption Conference in Blantyre on Monday, President Chakwera said Malawi needs a new anti-corruption approach that demands all relevant institutions, duty-bearers, and office-bearers to, not only produce the desired results that they are funded to produce, but a new approach that also demands that they work together to safeguard the sustainability of the fight.
“For example, we need a new approach that demands that Parliament plays its role by addressing the inconsistencies and gaps in our entire law, not simply cherry pick one clause about prosecutorial consent found in one law as if doing so will address the mistrust that hinder public institutions from working together to close all the gaps criminals use to defraud the government.
“Parliament must look at the country’s laws comprehensively, laws that regulate political party financing, laws that regulate public procurement, laws that regulate financial transactions between private and public sector, laws that regulate interagency cooperation, laws that regulate the proper conduct of criminal investigations, even laws that regulate the running of governance bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Directorate of Public Prosecution, the Fiscal Police, and the Financial Intelligence Authority, not only to protect their independence from state actors, but also from undue influence from non-state actors like political parties, private businesses, and agents of foreign governments,” said the President.
While commending Chakwera for demonstrating political will to revolutionize the law enforcement system in Malawi, Mwakasungula called for rigorous reforms at the Judiciary to ensure the judicial system is subject to the will of the people according the judiciary core values of promoting integrity, transparency, accountability, responsiveness and professionalism.
He said rampant stories of the members of the Judiciary being implicated in corruption and maladministration in the administration of justice is a big concern and worrisome to Malawians.
The activist cited the Catholic Bishops in Malawi who, in their Pastoral Letter released on 6th March 2022, called for the Judiciary to find a practical justice system that will serve all Malawian by always acting with integrity guided by the principles that govern this noble profession and aavoid making suspicious and questionable judgements and pronouncements, which are seen neither to be promoting justice nor fighting corruption.
“With these concerns, there is a need for radical changes in the Constitution to create the creation of the Office of a Judiciary Ombudsman as a grievances handling mechanism body with specific terms of reference.
“This Office of the Ombudsman could among other things receive and conduct inquiries into complaints against Judges, magistrates, registrars, judicial officers and staff of the Judiciary. It could also engage with the public on the role and performance of the Judiciary and improve the transparency of the court and accountability of the courts,” he said.
Mwakasungula said it is critically important that the Judiciary should be accountable and transparent in the manner it discharges its duties to the sovereign will of the people while at the same time ensuring the principle of separation of powers.
According to him, the establishment of the Office of a Judiciary Ombudsman would help bring back public trust, which is eroding since the public feels the judiciary has been captured and is protecting the interests of those involved in corruption.
“The country must avoid the erosion and collision of all the three arms of government in the fight against corruption and state capture. This is very important as the interaction between the three arms of government should be based on the principle of cooperative governance,” stressed Mwakasungula.