It has been an agonising slog for Norman Chisale—nine days in stinking police cells for a man who spent a good part of his last six years in a presidential palace, usually inches from the most powerful person in Malawi.
Yesterday, when he probably thought the nightmare would ease, the former president Peter Mutharika’s bodyguard—in custody for financial and attempted murder related charges—had to endure another day to chance a court bail.
Today might be the day he lies in his own bed, or remains the protesting guest of the State when the High Court in Blantyre is expected to hear his bail application for the attempted murder charge.
The bail hearing was initially scheduled for yesterday at 10am before Judge Sylvester Kalembera after an application by Chisale’s lawyer Chancy Gondwe.
Chisale appeared before the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court on Monday following his re-arrest on Friday.
The second arrest happened minutes after the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court granted him bail on a different charge pertaining to fraud and money laundering.
In an interview yesterday, Gondwe said Chisale’s bail hearing yesterday failed because the defence delayed to submit a notice to the State.
He said: “It [bail hearing] required 48 hours’ notice on the State. So, if it were to be heard today [yesterday] we would not have met the two-day notice requirement.”
Gondwe made an application for bail at the High Court on Monday under Section 42(2) (e) of the Constitution after the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court ordered that Chisale be remanded for seven more days at Chichiri Prison pending a committal of his case to the High Court.
A notice on homicide bail application number 134 of 2020, reads: “Let the parties concerned attend to the Judge at Blantyre on the 22nd of July 2020 at 10am in the forenoon or immediately thereafter for an application on behalf of the applicant for an order that he be released from custody on bail on terms and conditions that the court may deem appropriate and just in the interest of justice on the matter.”
But in his brief submissions to the court on Monday, State prosecutor Bright Sanudi said they were not ready for a legal battle in a court that had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
He indicated that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would be ready any day within the week with a certificate of committal of the case to the High Court.
After hearing the matter, chief resident magistrate Simeon Mdeza ordered the DPP to issue a certificate of committal of the case to the High Court within the seven-day period that Chisale is on remand at Chichiri Prison, failing which the remand would be reconsidered.
This is Chisale’s second bail push in as many weeks. After he was arrested last Tuesday on fraud and money-laundering charges related to cement imports that allegedly used Mutharika’s duty free status when he was President, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court granted him bail on Friday.
But he never got around to enjoy his temporary freedom because within minutes of the court’s reprieve, police re-arrested him on an attempted-murder charge for allegedly shooting a woman in the knee in Blantyre two months ago.
Lawyer Gondwe described his client’s attempted murder accusations as political persecution.
He said: “It was nothing like attempted murder. There were attackers on the accused person on that particular day, and in trying to defend himself the bullet ended upon the knee of the victim.”
But the Tonse Alliance-led government maintains that the wave of arrests that have so far largely targeted those who either served in or were perceived to be aligned to Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party are in fact a crackdown on corruption, abuse of office and impunity.
Others from the Mutharika era who were arrested include Bangwe Mthandizi Ward councillor in Blantyre Jomo Osman; Malawi Revenue Authority deputy director-general Roza Mbilizi who was later released and Gerald Viola, deputy chief executive officer at the National Food Reserve Agency.