Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential aspirant Uladi Mussa faces a bleak future as a politician following his conviction in the passport fraud case committed when he served as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security in 2013.
Delivering judgement in Lilongwe yesterday, High Court Judge Chifundo Kachale said he found Mussa, Immigration official David Kwanjana and Ugandan Peter Katasha guilty on the charge of use of public office to the advantage of another and neglect of official duty.
The judge convicted the trio, but acquitted two others suspected to have benefitted from the malpractice.
Kachale, who is also Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson, also revoked bail for the three after prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu asked the court for the same following their conviction.
Scenes following the conviction were mixed with Mussa—smartly dressed in a black business suit, blue necktie, a black pair of shoes and white stripped shirt—looking calm while his wife broke down in tears.
The former minister, who is DPP vice-president (Central Region), calmly bade farewell to his family members and other sympathisers before he was driven out of the court premises to Maula Prison pending sentencing slated for October 22 2020.
The charge of abuse of office carries a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment while for one to contest for public office such as member of Parliament (MP) one is supposed to legally have a seven-year wait.
Mussa’s lawyer Paul Maulidi refused to grant an interview, saying the court had not concluded the matter.
But Nyasulu, a private prosecutor engaged by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), hailed the conviction of the trio, saying the Constitution and the law require that public officers should enjoy the trust of the people.
He said the law requires that a public officer should not be negligent in discharging one’s duties.
Nyasulu, who previously served as Director of Public Prosecutions and has worked for the United Nations special tribunals as a prosecutor, said: “The law requires that a public officer’s actions must not be arbitrary, but must follow the law and procedures.
“If, like the convict, a public officer is in breach of trust or is negligent or arbitrary in carrying out his duties imposed by the law, such a public officer commits an offence. Unfortunately for the convict, it is not defence to such an offence to claim that one did not know the law.”
On his part, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba described the ruling as a triumph for Malawi and a lesson to Cabinet ministers as well as other public officers to avoid abusing their offices.
“We are in these positions to provide services to the people of Malawi and not to advance our personal interests,” he said.
Matemba said the sentences will depend on what the court decides, but added that the graft-busting body is praying for a custodial sentence.
Mussa, who served as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security during the two-year tenure of president Joyce Banda between April 2012 and May 2014, was accused of abusing his office by helping foreign nationals acquire Malawi citizenship and passports fraudulently. The former minister is alleged to have fraudulently granted citizenship status to at least 50 foreigners.
In July 2019, the United States of America Department of State banned Mussa and his spouse from visiting that country for his “involvement in significant corruption” in what an analysts described as a statement to authorities on fighting corruption.
At the time, Mussa, who had just been appointed president Peter Mutharika’s special adviser on parliamentary affairs, said he was surprised with the USA decision because the matter in court was yet to be concluded.
But the US Embassy in Lilongwe justified the decision against Mussa when the case was not concluded, saying the USA had acted “following credible information” that he was involved in significant corruption while serving as a Cabinet minister. Mussa was arrested in March 2017 on charges of negligence and abuse of office while serving as interim leader of People’s Party (PP) in the absence of party president Joyce Banda. He described the arrest at the time as politically-motivated. He later joined DPP and recently confirmed his ambition to vie for the former governing party’s presidency to replace Peter Mutharika.