Msiska turns down Justice minister role

Malawi’s prominent lawyer Mordecai Msiska, Senior Counsel (SC) has turned down a ministerial post in President Lazarus Chakwera’s Cabinet as he claimed it would appear as a reward having successfully represented Chakwera in the case that Constitutional Court threw out the results of the May 2019 election which electoral commission initially declared former president Peter Mutharika winner.

Msiska— was Chakwera’s lead lawyer in the presidential election nullification case that gifted him the presidency— and the President appointed him on Monday to be Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, succeeding Mutharika appointee Bright Msaka.

But Msiska has said he communicated the decision to the appointing authority appreciation for being considered for the post, though he would not be taking the offer.

The respect lawyer said he does not consider it appropriate to take the post.

“It would appear as if I am being rewarded in my role in the elections case,” said Msiska.

Modercai Msiska and Titus Mvalo with Dr Chakwera

Msiska said he has other commitments to do with his law firm and is convinced that there are many other lawyers who could take up the post.

“I advised that I could not take up the appointment for personal reasons; just a matter of certain preferences and obligations that I have,” he said on Tuesday.

Msiska said he has obligations with members of his staff at the legal firm he owns.

“I could not walk away from these obligations,” he said.

“Having been lead counsel in the elections case and my getting on to the administration particularly Minister of Justice will unduly affect the process that the governmental systems have to address,” said Msiska.

However, private practice lawyer Dr Chikosa Silungwe, a Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s ally and lead lawyer in the same case, is the new Attorney General, replacing Kalekeni Kaphale who the courts chided for being partisan, especially in his handling of the presidential election nullification case.

Commentators say Msiska’s reasons for turning down the Cabinet appointment make sense.

They argue that appearances in law are very important and it’s very noble for Msiska to behave in this way, saying it speaks volume of his character and integrity.

President Chakwera said he made the appointments in consultation with  Vice-President Chilima, who is also he line Minister for the National Planning Commission—a powerful new government agency that overseas not just implementation of long-term vision and strategy, but is also responsible for formulation of the country’s flagship projects and programmes for implementation.

Chakwera  said his Cabinet will have not more than 30 people, of which 40 percent will be women