Nsanje first grade magistrate Anderson Masanjala has a weird and discomforting view of his profession. He recused himself from the case of hyena Eric Aniva on the grounds of wanting to remain neutral on the issue, and because of “different comments on the case from the media”.
A magistrate is supposed to be neutral in every case he/she presides over, so that is no issue here. It is weird that a magistrate would cite this reason. Does this mean he has never been neutral in any case he presided over? Very scary, especially if you are on the receiving end of his verdict.
But the case becomes totally bizarre when we view the next reason cited: “different comments on the case in the media”. A magistrate is supposed to be 100% immune from any comment in any media. The magistrate appears unaware of the whole reason of his/her position: to neutrally apply the law. Media comments have nothing to do with any of the work of a magistrate (or a judge for that matter).
One begins to wonder how the profession of magistrate is administered, and why this particular magistrate has not been fired yet. Even more worrying is: what type of education do candidate-magistrates get, when one of them utters these bizarre reasons for recusing him/herself from the case, and we get no comments from anyone in the profession on top of that! If this is the way our magistrates are trained, in effect the role of the (supposedly neutral) magistrature is in performed by the media, who have not been trained in the legal profession and who have a totally different role in a democracy.
Just imagine: the magistrate cannot sit over the case because of the “different comments on the case from the media”. This would mean that in all previous cases the magistrate simply has followed the media, and he/she intends to keep doing so. This means that a suspect can be sentenced by the media, who have not been appointed to the judiciary system according the constitution, who have not been trained according to our systems, and who may not have any legal expertise at all. Just some journalist getting on your case may be enough to land you in gaol when your case is presided over by magistrate Anderson Masanjala. A scary thought, and another example of a lack of rule of law in our beautiful country. God save us…