There was drama in the High Court in Lilongwe yesterday when a former student and her lecturer locked horns across the divide of the prosecution and defence in the ongoing Paul Mphwiyo shooting trial.
Private practice lawyer and accused person Ralph Kasambara and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale exchanged tough words, with the former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs accusing the prosecution of personal persecution.
Kasambara belittled Kachale’s concerns that he and other accused persons had intimidated State witnesses who, she said, fear for their lives. But Kasambara said the DPP was just being dramatic.
Said Kasambara: “The drama being played by the DPP is obvious. She knew she was dealing with elusive witnesses. All this is for dramatic effect to castigate us. All this is intended to play with the public and the media, all just to attack me.”
He alleged that a police officer from Blantyre, Alex Phiri, had been making night phone calls threatening his wife and brother-in-law with prosecution if they did not comply to testifying against the senior counsel, but Kachale vehemently denied the allegations.
Kasambara further accused Kachale of favouring another accused person, Oswald Lutepo, who is not subject of bail revocation.
She shot back that as her former boss and trainer, she had a lot of respect for Kasambara; hence, she could not have a personal vendetta against him.
“This [prosecuting Kasambara] was not an easy decision for me to take, but I took it. The allegations he is making here are far from the truth. We do not intend, as the State, to call his wife as a State witness. These serious allegations are casting a slur on my character as well,” Kachale charged back.
On allegations of favouring Lutepo, Kachale said if he were her favourite, she would not have added him to the case once she examined the evidence and affidavits when she came into the office of the DPP.
Kachale insisted that the prosecution had evidence to show witness tampering, but in the meantime, they would ask the court to subpoena them to appear in court by force even though they might become hostile witnesses.
Another defence lawyer, John-Gift Mwakhwawa, intervened in the heated exchange and recommended that the State should use the machinery at its disposal to bring the State witnesses to court.
Earlier, the DPP told the court that State witnesses were not willing to testify against the six accused persons, claiming that they fear for their lives.
Some of the witnesses have been given police protection, but they said they are still afraid to testify against Kasambara, Macdonald Kumwembe and Pika Manondo who are answering charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Kachale said she was forced to ask for an adjournment after the witnesses lined up to testify, including a Chalunda and Defeneya, a ballistics expert from the Malawi Police Service, a police investigator and officials from Airtel Malawi who have since been withdrawn as witnesses.
Chalunda and Defeneya approached the prosecution and recorded statements in which they made allegations of intimidation from the accused persons only to change tact and claim that the prosecution was forcing them to change witness statements.
She added that the prosecution had concrete evidence to show the level of intimidation the witnesses have undergone.
Presiding High Court judge Michael Mtambo is yet to make a ruling on an application to revoke bail for the accused persons who she accused of engaging in ‘mafia-like’ operations to intimidate witnesses and prevent them from testifying against them.
The other accused persons are Dauka Manondo, Lutepo and Robert Kadzuwa whose bail has since been revoked for failing to show up for trial for two consecutive sessions.