The case of convicted former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara is back in court following directions that the case file should be in order by July 19 2021 before commencement of hearing.
Some documents were reportedly missing from the case file and the court directed the setting up of the case file to enable commencement of trial.
Kasambara was granted bail on March 14 2018 by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Dunstain Mwaungulu after spending a year and seven months in prison for conspiracy to commit murder of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Gladys Gondwe admitted of delays to finalise the process, saying it was due to settlement of court record.
In December last year the court ordered the registrar to conduct the process with other parties after it was discovered, during the first hearing, that some documents in the files were missing.
Weekend Nation understands that the process, which has taken almost six months, faced some delays as the meetings had to be adjourned at least three times.
It includes the time when two other convicts—Pika Manondo and Macdonald Kumwembe—who are also appealing their convictions, failed to come for a hearing in Lilongwe because there was no fuel for a vehicle to ferry the two from Zomba Prison where they are serving their sentences.
The High Court convicted and sentenced Manondo and Kumwembe to 15 years imprisonment each for attempted murder of Mphwiyo.
But Gondwe indicated that her office held several meetings with the other parties in the case during the period, adding that the process will be finalised this month.
“The matter has been set down several times before the Registrar for the purpose. It will next come for hearing on July 19, when the process is expected to be completed,” she said, adding that the matter should thereafter be set down for hearing before a full panel in the next session.
Monondo’s lawyer Michael Goba-Chipeta, in an interview yesterday, confirmed attending the meeting for settlement of record process, saying his client is also looking forward to a conclusion of the matter.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni, whose office is prosecuting the case, said: “We patiently wait for an expeditious settling of court record [so] that the appeal hearing can proceed.”
When contacted for his comment on the progress of the appeal, Kasambara did not respond.
In an earlier interview, MLS honoarary secretary Martha Kaukonde, indicated that the party that is benefiting from the status quo may not be interested to fast-track preparation of the court record.
She said: “The court itself, if it puts its mind to it that there is need to have the court record settled within three months, it can happen. The parties can give themselves timelines as to when this can happen, and it can happen.”
In 2016, Parliament passed the amendment to the Courts Act which allows the Chief Justice to promulgate rules of the civil procedure law in the High Court to improve justice delivery.
The country had been using civil procedure rules used in England and Wales developed in 1965. But the two countries have since reformed the rules over the years to modernise civil procedure litigation.
In his judgement, Mwaungulu observed that there seemed to be an apparent contradiction on finding Kasambara not guilty of the attempted murder charge, but finding him guilty of the conspiracy to murder.
Kasambara, who served as minister in the Joyce Banda administration, was jailed by High Court judge Michael Mtambo for conspiracy to murder in a crime linked to a multi-billion kwacha corruption ring dubbed Cashgate.
Mwaungulu also observed that the sentences were close to maximum and, in context, were passed against first offenders, adding the sentences were likely to be reduced.
Mwaungulu said the lower court wrongly based its findings on call logs, arguing they may have been discussing several other issues apart from what the State linked them to.