Friday, July 19, 2024

Talking Blues: Take a bow, our lawyers in the making!

Mathews Chawinga

”When we lost the presidential election, we needed to do a postmortem of what made us lose. We haven’t.” – Charles Mchacha, court re-instated DPP Regional Governor (South), speaking at a presser in Blantyre last Sunday.


Last week, we discussed the plight of University Students, especially the needy students languishing in Chikanda slums. Hot on the heels of that saddening discourse, students from this very University of Malawi’s School of Law, Economics and Governance gave me another reason to dedicate this week’s write-up to the University of Malawi.

Messrs. Mathews Chawinga and Joel Elifala stole the show in a moot court competition on Friday. Not “stealing” as in the pilfering our leaders do, no. I mean shining bright and standing so tall as to win the Moot Court Competition against their counterparts from the Catholic University of Malawi.

Congratulations to you both!

By way of clarification, a “Moot Court” is an exercise in which participants – usually law students – partake a simulated court and argue a hypothetical case before Judges. Real judges, by the way, in flesh, blood, bone, rob and wig! The moot allows the students to practice what they will do as practising lawyers.

I followed the moot on the creatively dazzling Mibawa TV Facebook page, and I would encourage you to watch and marvel at the students arguing their case before High Court Judges Mike Tembo, Jabar Alide and Jean Kaira.

Without undermining the Catholic University which is also on the right track, if the moot is anything to go by, the University of Malawi’s School of Law, Economics and Governance is doing something right.

Mathews Chawinga Esq’s natural and effortless brilliance, Joel Elifala Esq’s to the manner-born style, and the depth of knowledge showcased show that the future of the law profession in Malawi will be in good hands.
This got me thinking. Why in the hell did the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime inflict pain and injustice on these lawyers to be by enacting an oppressive law specifically engineered to oppress them?

The University of Malawi, formerly Chancellor College, has been the only institution of higher learning offering law degrees in the country. Due to the wealth of expertise at the University, the curriculum was designed so that once they complete their studies and graduate, having spent not four but five years to get the Honours degree, they were admitted straight to the Bar by the Chief Justice (CJ). Before I ruin lawyers’ and the CJ’s innocent reputations, let me clarify this “Bar” thing. It has nothing to do with beer or whiskey. It is when law graduates are transformed into practising Lawyers fit to argue cases in court.

So, until DPP thought otherwise, the University of Malawi graduates were being admitted to the bar due to the academic rigour of their Malawi Laws specific legal training delivered by our land’s most brilliant legal minds. This recognition, it would appear, was not amusing for some folk who received their law education training elsewhere, like in Zambia where Dr George Chaponda was trained or in the United States, where President Peter Mutharika got his training.

Jealous that they had to write Bar exams when the University of Malawi graduates had it easy and forgetting that they did their studies in jurisdictions non-Malawian, which necessitated their needing to prove by passing the bar exams, their conversance with Malawi’s laws; they erected a roadblock.

How? The former ruling DPP, desirous of exacting vengeance, amended the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act to compel University of Malawi law graduates to attend one more year of training to qualify as lawyers. Just like anyone whose training was based on foreign laws.

The implication is that after graduating with a law degree, instead of going straight into practice, the University of Malawi Law graduates will be required to go to Blantyre and waste another year at the Malawi Institute of Legal Education (MILE).

To become a lawyer, our children, kith and kin will spend six years!

When one considers that others – who studied the same curriculum and were schooled by the same crème de la crème did not have to go through this – is when one begins to realize that witchcraft is real.

This is all wrong.

Were I a parliamentarian of the DPP persuasion, I would table a Private Bill to remedy this injustice.

First, the curriculum the University of Malawi law school is using is the same one it has been using to train the graduates who were admitted to the bar right away.

Second, they are being taught by the same lecturers.

Third, the University of Malawi students, carefully selected to study law for their excellence, are mostly from poor families. They depend on loans from the government to complete their studies with the hope that once they graduate and are admitted to the bar, they can immediately begin supporting their poor families.

With this law, their already complicated and disadvantaged stature is further exacerbated. And guess what? They must wallow deeper into debt to pay at this MILE institution in Blantyre. And this is before accommodation, upkeep and incidental costs are factored in.

All this trouble in aid of what?

To redo courses and /or modules they already did at the University simply because when DPP was intoxicated with power, they decided to punish aspiring lawyers purely for fun?

Since our ancestors exhorted us to make hay while the sun is shining, while there is still time to fix this, some wise DPP parliamentarians must seek University of Malawi law students’ advice on fixing this mess.

One way is via a Private Members bill, amending the unfair, vengeful and absolutely regressive piece of mis-legislation to revert to the old status where University of Malawi law graduates went straight into practice.
On the other hand, an enterprising Malawi Congress Party (MCP) stalwart can beat the currently squabbling DPP MPs to the punch and advise President Lazarus Chakwera on the political mileage he stands to gain by amending this unnecessary, inhumane and vengeful miscarriage of justice.

Therefore, to respond to Mr Charles Mchacha, the reasons why DPP lost and is likely to get clobbered again are multifaceted. One of them is DPP’s proclivity and addiction to bad laws. Exempli gratia: the vindictive and vengeful provisions meted on our home-trained aspiring lawyers.

My considered advice is free:
”Repent now and earn the forgiveness of the University of Malawi law students, one of the most influential societies at Chilunga!”

There is an option.
“Dillydally, get sucker-punched by President Chakwera and forever languish in the impoverishing opposition. We will gladly welcome and accommodate you amongst us, the poor voting majority!”

I mean, look at the University of Malawi Team’s performance at the Moot Court, ponder the three reasons I have listed above as grounds for amending this creation of the DPP and tell me why it is fitting that fully baked University of Malawi graduates should head to “Mpemba” for some “training” as if they are yesteryear’s Junior Certificate holders.

Let me say one more thing, when someone pinches you on the ear, consider him a blood relative, and once again, University of Malawi’s School of Law, Economics and Governance, keep up the excellent work!

Take a bow!




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