Former president Joyce Banda has expressed shock over calls for her to stand in the witness box in the case of attempted murder of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
Speaking exclusively to The Nation through an e-mail questionnaire on Monday, the former president said she is in a state of shock after being named as one of the witnesses by the accused.
This is the second time Banda, fondly called JB by her supporters, has been named to be a possible witness by suspects in the case.
First it was former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara, then in the most recent case, Pika Manondo.
Said Banda: “In addition to Cashgate itself, there has never been an issue that shocked me as much as this during my whole time in public office.”
Banda also wondered how she could be a witness in a case she directed to be investigated after the shooting incident when she was serving as president.
She said on numerous occasions she thanked God that Mphwiyo survived the attack because he would shed more light and help with investigations on who could have been behind his attempted assassination.
Said JB: “My hope was that one day Malawi would know who committed such a heinous crime against a fellow human being.
“If you recall, I said at the time that whoever did that as far as I was concerned was an enemy of Malawi and because of the timing that we were fighting corruption, I knew that whoever did it was against my government’s fight against corruption.
“How can I be witness when I am the one who directed that the shooting should be investigated? When is this political persecution going to stop? How many deaths am I going to be accused of? This is wrong!”
Besides Banda, Manondo— who is the second accused in the case—told the High Court in Lilongwe last Friday that he also wanted to bring Banda’s former guard commander, a Mitepa, one Gostera Chimseu, a Mr Kadzamira and private practice lawyer Wapona Kita as his other witnesses in the matter.
But lawyer Justin Dzonzi told yesterday’s edition of The Nation that Banda risks being prosecuted for contempt of court if she fails to become a witness.
Said Dzonzi: “Legally, any person who possesses information on matters in court proceedings is a competent witness and can be compelled to testify. So, if Mrs Joyce Banda has knowledge of the events leading to the shooting of Mr [Paul] Mphwiyo, she can be compelled by the process of subpoena to appear and testify in court.”
However, Manondo’s lawyer, John-Gift Mwakhwawa, who was not present when his client mentioned Banda last Friday, said in an interview the defence has not conclusively discussed the matter.
In November 2013, Kasambara told Lilongwe chief resident magistrate Ruth Chinangwa that besides the former president, he would also parade in court her sister Cecilia Kumpukwe, Prophet Elias Mussa Gama, politicians Brown Mpinganjira and Hophmally Makande.
But appearing in the High Court in Lilongwe before Judge Michael Mtambo last Friday, Kasambara said he does not expect to parade any witnesses.
On April 29 2015, the court found Kasambara with a case to answer on the charge of conspiracy to murder. Pika Manondo and Kumwembe were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder while Kadzuwa and Dauka Manondo were acquitted.
Soon after the commencement of the case last Friday, Kita applied for his discharge from the case.
He had been representing the first accused in the shooting case, Kumwembe, who has since asked the court to bear with him as he hunts for an alternative lawyer.
Mtambo adjourned the case to August 31 and September 2.
In a related development, Banda’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya said yesterday Banda does not know how she can help anyone in the case.
Chanthunya, clarifying earlier assertions that he said Banda cannot be a witness as published in yesterday’s The Nation, said Banda will ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that justice is served.
Mphwiyo was shot on September 13 2013 at the gate of his house in Area 43, Lilongwe.
His shooting exposed revelations of Cashgate, the massive looting of public funds by politicians, civil servants and businesspersons through payment for goods and services not delivered and inflated invoices, among others.
Soon after the shooting, Banda is on record as having said she knew those responsible. However, she later clarified that she never meant she knew the suspects in person, but rather that they were enemies of the anti-corruption drive her government had embarked on.