The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is yet to identify a replacement for the lead prosecutor in the ongoing K1.7 billion corruption case against former president Bakili Muluzi.
The former lead prosecutor Reyneck Matemba, who is also ACB deputy director general, recused himself from the high profile case last week citing personal reasons.
ACB spokesperson Egritta Ndala confirmed yesterday the bureau was yet to meet and decide on Matemba’s replacement.
Matemba has been part of the prosecution team for more than two years.
Said Ndala: “I haven’t got any position [on the matter] from management. So, I will [know] the way forward and who will take over from Mr Matemba once management meets.”
Asked how the State will proceed with the case in the absence of Muluzi, who left the country yesterday for a medical checkup in South Africa, Ndala said the bureau will advise on the way forward.
Muluzi flew to South Africa for his routine checkup, but the defence said his trip will not disrupt proceedings of the case.
The former president alongside his former personal assistant, Lyness Violet Whiskey, are being accused of corruptly acquiring about $11 million (K1.7 billion at that time) when Muluzi was in power between 1994 and 2004.
One of Muluzi’s lawyers, Jai Banda, said yesterday Muluzi was expected to undergo his routine checkup and will be in South Africa for about two weeks. He is expected back on May 24.
“He will be back in time to attend trial so there is no reason to worry because his absence will not affect the proceedings,” said Banda.
Trial of the case is currently underway at the High Court in Blantyre and presiding Judge Maclean Kamwambe last week indicated that he was keen to see the case conclude, warning he would not tolerate any unnecessary adjournments.
On Thursday this week, the High Court is expected to meet in his chambers lawyers representing the State and defence to map the way forward after the defence applied to discharge Muluzi and Whiskey.
The defence applied for the case’s withdrawal after observing that the absence of the prosecutor and prosecution witness, Victor Banda, had created a gap in the prosecution of the matter.
The prosecution team comprised three members—Matemba, Imran Saidi also from ACB and a hired private practice lawyer Clement Mwala, whose contract with the Bureau has not been renewed yet following its expiry two weeks ago.
In making the application, the defence argued that what the State did meant that the matter had no prosecutor as such the court should discharge the accused.
The defence cited Section 247(1) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Code as read together with Section 11(c) of the Courts Act whose provisions relate to what must be done when either the prosecutor or complainant are absent from trial.
Section 247(1) empowers the court to discharge the accused persons although its power is exercisable by subordinate courts (magistrates’ court).
“But under Section 11(c) of the Courts Act, the High Courts have the powers that are conferred on subordinate courts and that is why we asked the court to invoke the sections together.
“As an alternative, we have asked the court to invoke its inherent jurisdiction because the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to regulate its own procedures where there is a gap in the law,” explained Chokotho in an interview later.
The case has been running since 2009 and since trial resumed on April 11 2016, over K100 million has been deducted from the said K1.7 billion the accused are alleged to have fraudulently acquired.