Mystery surrounds circumstances that led to the convening of the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court last week to make a decision in a case involving businessperson and shooting suspect Pika Manondo.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale, on request from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), obtained an order that stopped Manondo from accessing his money from a bank in Lilongwe.
Deputy spokesperson for the support staff, Linley Herbert, on Monday expressed surprise that the court convened, saying she is not aware whether any support staff were present.
Manondo’s lawyer, Ralph Kasambara, was equally surprised with what happened considering that courts are on strike.
Said Kasambara: “The courts are not functioning due to the strike by the Judiciary support staff. I don’t know how the DPP got the order because if it were me, I could have been accused of corruption.”
According to Kasambara, the order to freeze Manondo’s accounts expired in July. He said thereafter, there could have been an ex-parte hearing in the event that there was need for an extension.
But Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula dismissed suggestions of foul play in an interview on Monday, saying all procedures were followed.
Said Mvula: “What happened is that a court clerk brought the documents to her [Chinangwa’s] chamber. After she read and understood it, she went ahead to sign the papers, which extended the order.”
He could not disclose the name of the clerk that brought the papers to the magistrate.
This is not the first time for the courts to make a decision amid a strike as in February 2012 Kasambara was also granted a court bail while Judiciary support staff were on strike.
Police refused to acknowledge or comply with the order at the time, saying the courts were on a strike that had paralysed the country’s justice delivery system.
Support staff in the Judiciary are in the seventh week of their strike to push government to increase their salaries by 45 percent as it did with civil servants.
But government says it is in the process of harmonising salaries, hence only civil servants in the mainstream getting a salary increment.