President Peter Mutharika’s administration is deliberately incapacitating the prosecution team in the former president Bakili Muluzi’s K1.7 billion corruption case so that the matter collapses, well-placed sources in the government have revealed.
According to sources who confided into Malawi News, further claim that this is one of the conditions aimed at furthering the working relationship between the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Since the tripartite elections in May 2014, UDF and DPP have been in what they call an ‘informal’ working relationship in Parliament and out of it.
In the august house, UDF MPs have been sitting on the government side and the party’s leader, Atupele Muluzi, son to Bakili, has been in Mutharika’s cabinet.
Muluzi’s case has dragged on since 2006.
On Thursday, the case took a surprising turn when one of the three prosecutors, Reyneck Matemba who is Deputy Director for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), recused himself from the case citing personal reasons. This effectively leaves only one member in the prosecution team as the other had his contract expired last week.
Our two sources say Matemba was under immense pressure to discontinue the case from individuals within the DPP government to the point that he was afraid to be the sacrificial lamb’ hence his decision to leave the case to have peace of mind.
Asked to confirm this yesterday, Matemba simply said: “No comment”.
Judge Maclean Kamwambe accepted Matemba’s decision. He said it seemed the state was
disarray, a statement which could suggest that the case is on the verge of collapse.
Now the two senior government sources have since told Malawi News that this eventuality is what the government is working at.
They said government is no longer interested in the case as it undermines the marriage of convenience between the ruling DPP and the UDF out of which the DPP was born.
“There is a lot happening behind the scenes to ensure the discontinuance of the case,” said one source (name withheld).
Another source said when Muluzi’s co-accused Lyness Whiskey collapsed in court recently, some people from the eastern region where the Muluzis come from queried government why it was bothering [Bakili] Muluzi when his party is in marriage with government with his son Atupele in Cabinet.
But government has dismissed suggestions that it is deliberately frustrating the prosecution team in the case.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale told Malawi News yesterday that the prosecution team is independent of any interference and it is mere speculation that government wants to weaken it and see the case discharged eventually.
On what government will do following Matemba’s recusal, Kaphale said:
“I can’t say anything about government’s next move before I hear from the prosecution team.”
Senior Public Relations Officer for the ACB, Egrita Ndala, also said she could not say anything on the bureau’s next move.
“I can’t tell you anything because this happened yesterday (Thursday) and the bureau management has not met yet to see the way forward,” she said.
The case, in which Muluzi is answering 15 corruption related charges, and Whiskey three out of them, has been characterised by slow progress due to too many unnecessary adjournments since it started in 2006.
With the departure of Matemba, it means that another ACB prosecutor Imran Saidi is the only State lawyer remaining as the contract for the other prosecutor, Clement Mwala, expired last week and has not been renewed. Government has not indicated whether Mwala would be replaced for the continuation of the case.
Upon Matemba’s recusal, the defence counsel of Tamando Chokotho and Jai Banda asked the court to discharge Muluzi and Whiskey.
In the application, Chokotho asked the court to use section 247 (1) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and section 11 (c) of the Courts Act which empowers the High Court to discharge a case in the absence of prosecutors and prosecution witness.
The first State witness, Victor Banda, who the defence counsel started cross-examining last month before series of adjournments, was not available in court on Thursday.
In his response to the submission by the defence, Judge Kamwambe said they had grounds for the application and the court has been caught unaware of the developments within the State camp.
Kamwambe set May 12 2016 to meet counsel from both sides and only then shall the court make a decision on the defence application for.