The courts in Blantyre have finally set dates to deliver rulings on separate applications filed by former president Bakili Muluzi and ex-Cabinet minister and Attorney General Ralph Kasambara.
The Constitutional Court is expected to deliver its ruling on the corruption case involving Muluzi on whether to invalidate or validate Section 32 of the Corrupt Practises Act (CPA).
Either way, the court’s ruling will have a bearing on the dragged case as it will determine whether it will continue or fall off.
On the other hand, High Court Judge Dustain Mwaungulu is scheduled to deliver his ruling on whether to grant bail to Kasambara and his co-accused, Pika Manondo and McDonald Kumwembe, pending appeal of their murder convictions.
High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba confirmed yesterday that Muluzi’s ruling is set for next Wednesday, February 21 while that of Kasambara will be decided on March 14.
“As we indicated that the judgements are ready, the court has now set February 21 to rule on Muluzi’s application and March 14 for Kasambara and his co-accused,” said Patemba yesterday.
Muluzi is being accused of diverting K1.7 billion of public funds to his personal account during his rule from 1994 to 2004. His trial begun in 2006 and to date it has not been concluded, making it one of the most dragged high-profile corruption cases in the country.
In 2011, Muluzi’s lawyers applied to the Constitutional Court to determine the constitutionality of Section 32 of the CPA, which puts the burden on the accused to prove their innocence against the general principle where the burden lies in the hands of the State.
If the constitutional court determination invalidates the section under contention–the corruption charges levelled against Muluzi will fall off–meaning no one can be prosecuted using such law.
But where the court considers the section valid, Muluzi will continue standing trial and the law will remain applicable as has been the case all along.
Three judges—Sylvester Kalembera, Dorothy Nyakaunda Kamanga and Dingiswayo Madise—formed the panel of the Constitutional Court.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Muluzi’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho confirmed about the set date of the ruling on the 12-year-old case.
Said Chokhotho: “We have confirmed with the court about the set date, and in our case we can only wait for this is what we have been waiting for.”
About two weeks ago, both Tamando and Patemba told our sister paper Nation on Sunday the case was dragging due to its complexity and technicalities which include the volume of the arguments.
Kasambara, Manondo and Kumwembe first applied for bail immediately after their convictions in July 2016 but Judge Michael Mtambo dismissed their application on account that Section 359 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code (CP&EC) does not explicitly say a convict can be released on bail.
The trio then appealed to the Supreme Court in March last year where Judge Mwaungulu, sitting as a single Judge, upon concluding hearing the application in September last year, reserved his ruling.
The three were convicted in July 2016 after being found guilty of conspiracy and attempted murder of former budget director Paul Mpwhiyo at his Area 43 residence in September 2013. Kasambara was given 13 years in jail while Manondo and Kumwembe got 26 years each.