Former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha has asked the High Court in Blantyre to discharge all charges levelled against him in the 17-year old treason case due to unwarranted delay in the prosecution of the matter.
Justice Ruth Chinangwa heard Chilumpha’s application in her chambers on Friday before reserving her ruling which she promised to deliver within the next 14 days.
Chilumpha was arrested alongside former politician and businessperson Yusuf Matumula in May 2006 on allegations of plotting to assassinate then president Bingu wa Mutharika using hired assassins from South Africa.
In his application, the former vice-president represented by lawyers from Hawkins Attorneys prayed for his discharge as an accused or for the action to be dismissed for want of prosecution in the criminal cause Number 13 of 2006.
Chilumpha is accused of the offences of treason contrary to Section 38 of the Penal Code and conspiracy to murder contrary to Section 227 of the Penal Code.
The application was premised on Section 42(2)(f) of the Constitution which, he argued guarantees an accused the right to fair trial.
The former VP argued the matter had taken more than a decade with prosecution taking no steps, which was an infringement upon his rights as an accused.
But Dzikondianthu Malunda from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) argued that the accused wrongly referred to provisions such as Section 247 of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code (CPEC), Section 42 of the country’s constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In an interview after the closed-door submissions, Malunda described the case as complex which he said could not be completed within a short time.
“We do believe that if given time we can still prosecute the matter to finality. That is why we have argued that the sections were wrongly referred to and, therefore, the court should dismiss the application to discharge the case,” explained Malunda, who is senior assistant chief state advocate.
Speaking in an interview, through his lawyers, Chilumpha said having spent 17 years in suspense, it was important for him to see not only justice being delivered, but also conclusion of the matter.
“Like any other Malawian, I have a constitutionally- trial. Such that where a case has dragged for as long as mine has dragged-on, there can’t be said to be any fairness.guaranteed right to a fair
“Even if at some point down the line, the case was somehow restored and then heard from where we left-off more than a decade ago, the unreasonable delay means fairness would have still been absent.
“For these reasons, I had no choice but to make an application seeking to be discharged as an accused person and/or for the case against me to be dismissed for a want of prosecution,” said Chilumpha in a written response. However, the former VP said he was pleased the application was finally heard and was anxiously waiting for the court’s ruling.
Chilumpha and the late Mutharika fell out in 2005 after the former president left United Democratic Front (UDF), a party that sponsored him into power in 2004, to form his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).