Friday, September 30, 2022
FeatureLaw and order

ACB caught pants down judge-shopping in Zomba

CHIZUMA

Malawi courts have stated time without number for parties to litigation to avoid judge shopping yet the vice seems to continue unabated. For starters, judge shopping is when Counsel avoids going to the nearby court where he would normally have gone and instead goes to a distant court to start proceedings. The goal is to have the targeted court issue a favorable response or judgment.

The Lilongwe High Court’s Judge Mkandawire publicly humiliated one Counsel, Oscar Taulo, for such unethical behavior. In the Taulo scenario, the parties to the case were based in Lilongwe, but he (Taulo) avoided the Lilongwe registry to begin the proceedings and instead went to the old capital of Zomba. Judge Mkandawire was infuriated with this judicial tourism and said unequivocally that this kind of legal machination must stop.

Said the Judge:

“Surprisingly, counsel [Oscar] Taulo thought of crossing the great Shire River to Zomba Plateau, some hundreds of kilometers from the conveniently placed Lilongwe District Registry.”

He further observed as follows:

“It is indeed very amazing as to how the former Capital City Zomba keeps on having its gravitational force on some counsels who abandon nearby court registries and opt for distant ones.

“This is not the first time when eyebrows have been raised by these courts in the way some matters are being filed in our courts, especially the High Court. At times this has led to speculation by members of the public that court users are involved in forum shopping.”

The Judge’s advice appears to have gone on deaf ears, as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), led by director Martha Chizuma, has resorted to the same Machiavellian litigation strategy.

Consider this case: In the Magistrate Court Sitting at Zomba: Miscellaneous Criminal Application No. 3 of 2022;  The Republic v Alex Dzinkambani (Warrant of Arrest) 

The ACB offices in Blantyre are flanked by a Magistrate Court, which is only 30 meters away and directly across the street. There are further Magistrate Courts at Limbe and Lunzu, both in the same commercial city.

When the ACB wanted to obtain a warrant for Alex Dzinkambani’s arrest who lives and works in Blantyre decided to drive more than 60 kilometers to Zomba Magistrate Court to get an arrest order. Why?

We submit that this is a misuse of the legal system. We further submit that this conduct is at least tantamount to judge shopping orchestrated by the Martha Chizuma-led ACB in order to appear to be scoring court triumphs via backdoor arrangements. Finally, we also note that traveling outside of the work station to Zomba when the same service would have been found in the same city is done to milk government resources through an allowance—a form of corruption in and of itself.

Therefore, when the ACB fraudulently and corruptly embarks on this path of siphoning their assigned cash in this manner and method, they should not in turn cry foul that the Chakwera-led administration is denying them funding.

Some stakeholders have predicted, and we tend to agree, that the Martha Chizuma-led administration will lead us to lose in the fight against corruption. Her inactivity, along with such a Machiavellian method of draining their own working financial resources, should be considered just the tip of the iceberg.

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