State witness Charles Chalunda yesterday refused to testify under oath in the High Court in Lilongwe because, he said, the last time he did so he was locked up in Zomba.
Standing in the witness box in the case where six people are accused of attempting to murder former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo, Chalunda maintained he did not want to be charged with perjury; hence, would reserve his right to remain silent.
Despite attempts by the State and presiding judge Micheal Mtambo to convince him to take oath and testify, Chalunda stood his ground.
This prompted Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale to apply to the court that Chalunda be turned into a hostile witness.
However, the defence objected to the DPP’s application. It took about 20 minutes of trying to convince Chalunda to take oath.
Chalunda accepted after another 10 minutes of pleading by defence lawyer John-Gift Mwakhwawa and Enock Chibwana from the prosecution team.
With everything set, Kachale asked Chalunda if he knew one-by-one the suspects to which the witness responded: “I have never seen them.”
Kachale, who was the first to examine the witness, produced photocopied affidavits and selected a sentence which was purportedly written by Chalunda to Goba Chipeta as his lawyer to read to the court.
Read Chalunda: “Affidavit imene ndinapeleka yoyamba siidali yolondola. [The first affidavit I submitted was incorrect].”
However, when made to re-read the affidavit, Chalunda testified that it was correct and he was happy with it.
“I don’t know where all this is coming from! I think I meant to omit the ‘si’ [not]. I don’t know what is happening. I did not write,” fumbled Chalunda while sitting.
When the judge asked Kachale to read Chalunda’s first affidavit, the court heard that the witness knew the suspects and that he had interacted with them on several occasions.
Chalunda also clarified that the person he had been conspiring with to kill Mphwiyo was Pika Manondo and not businessperson-cum-politician Osward Lutepo.
According to the affidavit, one of the accused, Pika Manondo, allegedly gave Chalunda money on two occasions amounting to almost K2 million as part payment to kill Mphwiyo.
In the affidavit, Chalunda was shown places where Mphwiyo liked to hang out.
In his response, Chalunda said he did not want to comment.
This then prompted Kachale to tell the court why it is important to revoke the bail for the suspects as witnesses are being threatened.
“I am insisting that witnesses are being threatened and I can prove that with a recording which we have in our possession, I want to see if Chalunda will disown his own voice,” charged Kachale.
Her decision prompted Mwakhwawa to object after consultations with former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara, who is one of the suspects.
Mwakhwawa argued Kachale needed to have basis for her decision but later agreed.
Earlier, lead police investigator Kankhwala Chilinda also said there was evidence linking Lutepo to the attempted murder.
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.