By Daniel Itai – The Zimbabwe Daily

Lilongwe, Malawi

Civil societies across the African continent have joined hands in condemning Malawi’s Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda’s forced early retirement.

 Last week the government told the Chief Justice to take time off until his retirement next year, citing he had accumulated more leave days than his remaining work days.

“We call upon the executive branch of the government of Malawi to respect the independence of the judiciary, especially at this time when Malawi is heading towards the re-run of the Presidential election,” read a statement from 42 African lawyers and civic organizations.

Nichole Fritz CEO of South African based civil society group, Freedom Under Law said the executive was not supposed to interfere in the manner in which the judiciary executes its duties.

However, the judiciary has disputed the government’s estimate of the number of leave days due to Chief Justice Nyirenda and said he will continue to discharge his duties. It also challenged the government’s right to interfere in the workings of the courts.

The country’s High Court also issued out a statement against the move, “once a judge is appointed, all other matters relating to welfare and discipline fall within the exclusive province of the judiciary.

After the appointment thereof, the executive is not involved in the internal affairs of the judiciary. The Chief Justice shall continue to discharge his functions as per his constitutional mandate.”

Chief Justice Nyirenda led the court that annulled President Peter Mutharika’s election victory last year and ordered a re-run which is scheduled for the 23rd of this month.