Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 Under Fire
The Malawi Law Society says the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus has no constitutional mandate to manage the disaster as the constitution entrusts the responsibility with the ministry of disaster preparedness and relief which has the structures in place for implementation.
The view is contained in a 40-page legal guidance on management of the coronavirus pandemic in Malawi in which it observes that cabinet ministers are not members of the disaster preparedness and relief committee as such any decisions, initiatives and actions they take are not legally binding.
The society says it and the Society of Doctors in Malawi have expressed interest to participate in or provide suggestions for civil protection in the disaster by way of reminding authorities that the two bodies are critical stakeholders with legal mandate in the provision of civil protection this time around.
The Malawi Law Society observes that there are breaches regarding public finance management and the legality of the disaster management scheme currently run by government.
It cites an announcement by Minister of Health that treasury has disbursed 2.4 billion Kwacha, 1 billion more, in the allocated 1.5 billion Kwacha allocated for COVID19 response when President Peter Mutharika announced a state of disaster.
Apart from legality of government's expenditure as illegal, MLS has also described special Cabinet Committee on COVID-19 illegal saying Ministry of Disaster and Preparedness Relief is mandated to handle outbreaks such as COVID-19.
The society also accuses government of copying strategies from South Africa ignoring Malawi's constitution in the management of the pandemic.
Martha Kaukonde is the Secretary of Malawi Law Society and said:
"Well, it is very unfortunate that government continues to breach constitution in the implementation of COVID 19 containment measures and you see government is just copying strategies from South Africa ignoring Malawi's constitution."
Legal expert Justin Dzonzi has commended MLS for the insightful write up and has since accused government of paying more attention to Disaster and Preparedness Relief Act ignoring Public Health act and other laws in the constitution on the management of outbreaks.
"I must commend Malawi Law Society for the write up it has written government and I agree with MLS for government's breach of constitution in the management of COVID 19," Dzonzi said.
Meanwhile, Government spokesperson Mark Botomani asked for more time before commenting as he was still studying the write up by MLS.
"I have just received the document I will comment later after going through it," Botomani said.
Apparently, Malawi has recorded 6 more Coronavirus patients in Lilongwe bringing the total tally of confirmed cases to 24.