UK firm helps Malawi govt avoid constitutional crisis

UK firm Lawrence Graham was called upon to help rescue the fledgling African democracy of Malawi from a constitutional crisis, in a case heard in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.

Partner Andrew Dobson, accompanied by Patrick Elias QC of 11 King's Bench Walk, were admitted to the local bar to represent the Malawi government against the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which had as recently as 1993 held the country in one-party rule.

The firm was called in after the MCP successfully challenged the legality of an act designed to wrest control of a powerful trust fund, which oversees more than 30 per cent of the formal Malawi economy, from the MCP.

The MCP challenged the The Press Trust Reconstruction Act 1995 on the grounds that it was passed without a two-thirds quorum in the National Assembly, a situation engineered by the MCP which refused to return to the assembly for the crucial vote.

The government turned to leading trust law specialist Lawrence Graham for help in October last year, and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the attorney general.

The court confirmed the validity of the Act and all others passed while the National Assembly was depleted of its members.

It also ruled that the MCP had acted illegally and ordered the party to return to the assembly or give up their seats.

Dobson said: “There was a lot resting on this decision, but after winning, the firm is now acting to divest some of the assets of the trust, which is seen as far too powerful, so it is a good result for the firm too.”