- Kasambara, 2 others have cases to answer
- Three acquitted
The High Court in Lilongwe has found that former Justice minister Ralph Kasambara has a case to answer on the charge of conspiracy to murder former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
This means that the court has absorbed the private practice lawyer of attempted murder charge, a more serious crime that attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
On the other hand, conspiracy to murder’s utmost punishment is 14 years imprisonment.
But two others allegedly connected to the Mphwiyo shooting—Pika Manondo and Macdonald Kumwembe—will answer the charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, according to the court.
However, the court has determined that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to implicate businessperson Oswald Lutepo, Robert Kadzuwa and Dauka Manondo in the conspiracy to commit murder charges they were facing.
This means that the two have been acquitted and the State can never bring back the same charges in future.
Throughout the 90-minute delivery of the ruling whose parts attracted chuckles in the courtroom as Justice Michael Mtambo attempted to explain legal issues, Kasambara’s head remained bowed while the rest had their eyes either fixated on the judge or the lawyers’ bench in front of them.
Absolving Kasambara of the attempted murder charge, Mtambo said Mphwiyo’s testimony did not conclusively prove that the senior counsel was present at the scene of the crime.
“If a person says they know someone, it does not automatically mean you can recognise that someone,” argued the judge.
Kasambara has been cleared of the attempted murder charge because the note that Mphwiyo claimed to have written to his aunt, a Mrs. Chioko, placing the then Justice minister on the scene of the crime, was not submitted in court.
But testimony and call logs submitted as evidence from Airtel Malawi may have influenced the decision to have Kasambara, Manondo and Kumwembe remaining on the conspiracy to commit murder charge sheet as it showed that the three were constantly communicating prior to and after the shooting occurred.
“Although the first accused [Kumwembe] said he was in Mozambique [at the time of the shooting], Airtel evidence puts him in Lilongwe on the day of the shooting. In cross-examination, it was implied that he left the phone with his wife, but could his wife have been criss-crossing the country, communicating with friends of the first accused person and sending messages showing panic with friends of the husband? Evidence also shows that the first and third accused persons [Pika] were in communication prior to and after the shooting,” Mtambo said.
He added: “I find that the State has made out a prima facie case on the first accused person requiring him to enter defence.”
The court found that Pika Manondo was closely linked to Mphwiyo as they were business acquaintances and the call logs from Airtel placed him in Area 43 on the night of September 13, but he also bolted the country soon after the shooting, which put into question his innocence.
In reaction to the ruling, Kasambara sarcastically described Mtambo’s reasoning on Airtel call logs as ‘new principles’ which he wanted to familiarise himself with before the new date for hearing.
Mphwiyo was shot at the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013.
It is believed that his shooting opened a can of worms that exposed the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill widely known as Cashgate.
Meanwhile, the court threw out a claim of costs to Lutepo for being wrongfully dragged into the Mphwiyo shooting case.
Making his order on the claim for costs, Mtambo said it would be senseless for the court to award Lutepo costs for being wrongfully added to the case when he was answering monetary-related charges of theft and money laundering.
“He is already answering Cashgate-related charges and it would be senseless for this court to be awarding money to Lutepo. I, therefore, decline to award the costs,” said Mtambo.
Lutepo is facing theft and money laundering charges amounting to K3.1 billion, tax evasion and perjury.