Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera

Malawi: Chakwera fires Attorney-General who won him election petition

MALAWI’S President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has fired the Attorney General Dr. Chikosa Silungwe who was lead counsel for UTM Party President Dr Saulosi Chilima in the win for fresh presidential elections in June 2020 that brought Tonse Alliance into government.

The termination was anticipated as the President lost confidence and trust in the government chief legal advisor which culminated in leaks of sensitive legal advices and opinions among them being his hard stance against Chakwera’s decision to dismiss Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sponsored Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioners, Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje who were found incompetent.

The dismissal has resulted in the DPP lodging the matter in court which sources reveal that Dr Silungwe is uncomfortable to defend against his advice.

Justice Madise who was part of the five justices Constitutional Court that ruled for fresh elections has referred the DPP application to the Chief Justice as a constitutional matter.

In his letter to MEC Chairperson Chifundo Kachale dated 13th April, 2021, the former Attorney General said one of the effects of the rescission of the appointment of the two Commissioners is that there is no Electoral Commission in accordance with section 75 (1) of the Constitution.

“My advice is that the remaining members of your cohort should not discharge any duty or power of the Electoral Commission under the Constitution or an Act of Parliament until section 75 (1) of the Constitution has been complied with,” said Silungwe in the letter.

Silungwe also attracted another set of the presidential anger because of the leakage of his memos to the social media.

The former AG took swipe at public officers who continuously leaked to the social media his legal advice to the government.

“Since I assumed office, a number of Opinions I have given to Ministries, Departments or Agencies have been leaked to the social media. This is unprecedented. The leakages have generated unwarranted cyber—debates often leading to conclusions that I have misapplied the law,” said the AG in a statement.

Since he took oath of office on June 29, 2020, Silungwe has had two of his legal opinions leaked to the social media, much to his disappointment and frustration.

On Thursday, 11 February, 2021, two opinions that he gave to two senior offices in the government were leaked to social media.

These include opinion of 12 August, 2020, which tackled the legality of interdiction without pay and the second opinion was made on 20 August, 2020, and it was about the composition of the Electoral Commission.

But Silungwe exonerated officials from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, stressing that they are not behind the leakage of his opinions.

“There are a number among us — public officers — who have deluded, personal agenda that tends to be driven by a condescending attitude towards other public officers. This personal delusion must not be allowed to morph into institutionalised pettiness that threatens the professionalism required in public service. The people of Malawi deserve better from their public officers,” he said in the statement.

Silungwe said under the country’s constitutional order, the President can fire one public officer for giving wrong legal advice.

He emphasized that that person, at the moment, is Chikosa Mozesi Silungwe and therefore nameless lawyers or nameless senior government officials do not bear the constitutional obligation to provide legal advice to the government.

“I bear that constitutional obligation. It is an obligation that I take very seriously. The people of Malawi can be assured that I will not let them down,” he stressed in the letter.

Silungwe stated that he would not have accepted his appointment as the 19th Attorney General of the Republic if he knew that he is incompetent for the position.

He challenged that he accepted the appointment because he knows that he is competent to serve the people of Malawi as their Attorney General.

“I joined a team of solid and professional lawyers who are fiercely dedicated to serve the people of Malawi. When I issue an Opinion on a matter, it is the manifestation of the product of rigorous in—house legal research. At that point, I have made up my mind that the Opinion I am issuing is one I can stand by. The Opinions of 12 August, 2020 and 20 August, 2020, are Opinions I will stand by. The Opinions are correct at law,” emphasized Silungwe.

He said it would be serious neglect of his constitutional obligation if he were to provide unsound legal advice to Government.

“I will have let myself down. I will have let the people of Malawi down. Since I know that the leakages are not from the Ministry of Justice, I expect colleagues from other Ministries, Departments or Agencies to be the professionals they must be. Leaking my Opinions in the manner it happened on Thursday, 11 February, 2021 is simply silly and immature. I trust that the people of Malawi have seen the last chapter of this absolute and hideous nonsense,” thus he concluded his statement. Nyasa Times

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