The judicial system in Malawi started during the pre-colonial times and followed procedures of customary law. The records of traditional courts across the country can be used to establish the history of Malawi’s court system. The records are still kept in traditional courts, and are stored in unsuitable conditions.
Court records from traditional and district courts show how the court system in Malawi has worked over the years. Before becoming a British protectorate, Malawi’s courts did not keep written records of its customary law. However, when Malawi became a British protectorate, English law and legal procedures were introduced and given priority over customary Law. The records created between 1891 and 1964 show the progression of Malawi’s judicial system and it is invaluable to complement the post-independence records held in the National Archives.
The documents are kept in improper storage conditions, stored with furniture and tyres. The storerooms have poor ventilation and are dusty. In most public offices, no officer is assigned to manage non-current records such as these.
This pilot survey project aimed to locate the records and relocate them to more suitable environments. The- project succeeded in identifying records in district and subordinate courts across the region. The material was in all cases relocated and organised in the district and regional courts. The project developed an inventory of all the material found and digitised 1,100 samples. Members of staff have been trained in digitisation.