For about 11 minutes yesterday, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director general Reyneck Matemba, seemed to be fighting an emotional battle as he addressed the High Court in Blantyre.
Picking his words cautiously and fighting back emotional tears, Matemba—the lead prosecutor in the ongoing K1.7 billion corruption case involving former president Bakili Muluzi—made a tough call to recuse himself in the case.
“I wish to inform the court that because of a number of factors, I have decided to recuse myself from this case. This is a decision made after a serious reflection,” he told the court.
Matemba said the decision was on personal grounds and, “for the record, those factors have nothing to do with the first accused [Muluzi] or second accused [Lyness Violet Whisky]”.
Whisky, a former personal assistant to Muluzi, is being accused alongside the former president of corruptly acquiring about $11 million (K1.7 billion then) when Muluzi was in power between 1994 and 2004).
However, Matemba hinted that his recusal did not translate into the discontinuous or withdrawal of the high-profiled case by the State (ACB).
He explained: “As regards the way forward for the case, depending on what the defence will submit to you, the State in this case the Anti-Corruption Bureau will communicate to you.”
As Matemba resumed his seat, tears could be seen welling up in his eyes. And his tag of being media friendly yesterday fell over as he even declined to grant any interviews to a waiting horde of reporters outside the court premises.
Taking its turn, the defence counsel said it had noted the lead prosecutor’s recusal application and would not be in a position to compel him to proceed with the prosecution.
“But before the court rises we will make an application to that effect,” said lead defence counsel Tamando Chokotho.
Before the defence made its application, presiding judge Maclean Kamwambe granted Matemba his recusal application.
Said Kamwambe: “It seems to this court that n
Nevertheless, let me, with sadness, accept Mr Matemba’s recusal application.”the State is in disarray…
Making their application, defence lawyers observed that the absence of the prosecutor and prosecution witness, Victor Banda, had created lacunae (a gap) in the prosecution of the matter which the law does not provide.
The prosecution team comprised three members— Matemba, Amran Saidi also from ACB and a hired private practice lawyer Clement Mwala.
But yesterday, Saidi and Mwala were not present in the court. Matemba explained that the former had another case at the High Court in Lilongwe while the latter’s contract expired last week and the State was yet to renew it.
In his argument, Chokotho said what the State had done meant the matter had no prosecutor as such the court must discharge the accused.
“In criminal proceedings, there is a strict requirement that matters must have specific dates and they must be heard within those specific dates… That is the basis of our application to have the accused persons discharged because we can’t just leave the matter hanging, it must come to an end,” argued Chokotho.
However, Kamwambe said the court had been caught unawares with the events and still needed to hear from the State before coming up with a decision.
He then reserved his ruling on whether to discharge Muluzi and Whisky in the case until May 12 2016 when he will meet the defence and State in his chambers before making a decision on the way forward.
The case has been running since 2009 and trial resumed on April 11 2016. So far, over K100 million has been deducted from the said K1.7 billion which the two accused are accused to have fraudulently acquired