The High Court in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe has ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to file fresh charges against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gurus, including its president Peter Mutharika, who are accused of treason and concealing the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Mutharika is the DPP’s presidential candidate in the May 20 elections and a conviction on treason charges could jeopardise his chances of contesting in the elections. However, objections the defence has been raising could further delay the start of trial.
Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Jean Kalilani, Goodall Gondwe, Patricia Kaliati, Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Henry Mussa, former deputy ministers Nicholas Dausi and Kondwani Nankhumwa, and former chief secretary to the Government Bright Msaka appeared in court on Wednesday to hear a ruling in which they objected to the wording of the charges laid against them.
As usual, pomp from DPP sympathisers followed their presidential candidate to court with dancing and beating of drums sounding around the court premises, which prompted Justice Esmie Chombo to briefly adjourn the proceedings.
The accused argued that the particulars of the charges would not accord them fair trial once it commences because they were vague.
The defence had argued that the three counts of treason, mutiny and incitement contain words such as ‘persons unknown’, ‘diverse places’ (different places) which they claimed would prejudice their defence.
The lawyers also wanted the court to order the merger of the count of mutiny and treason but Chombo quashed this, saying only three people —Mutharika, Gondwe and Msaka—were charged with the count of mutiny.
Chombo agreed with the defence that charges against the DPP gurus emanated from the commission of inquiry where names of people involved and places were clearly stated.
“The prosecution should be able to name particulars, such as names of places and the unknown persons that the accused persons conspired with,” Chombo ruled.
One of the lawyers present at the ruling, Titus Mvalo, wanted to raise another application but upon consultation agreed with DPP Bruno Kalemba that objections would be raised after taking of plea.
Kalemba promised the court that he would file fresh charges before the end of the week.
The eight, excluding Allan Ntata who has been charged in absentia, had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges, but they will have to take plea again after this ruling.
Chombo adjourned the case to a date to be determined once charges have been filed.