Former Dowa East legislator Nasser Kara, who was sentenced to death in 2002 after being convicted of the murder of his driver Alex Mbewe, is out of jail after serving 20 years.
The former member of Parliament (MP), who served in Parliament from 1999 to 2002, was saved from death row by the 2007 Kafantayeni Project spearheaded by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), which pushed the High Court of Malawi to abolish the mandatory death sentence.
The project followed a death row prisoner Francis Kafantayeni and others’ successful challenge of the death sentence, supported by MHRC. This necessitated the Judiciary to review all murder cases of serving prisoners and Kara had his sentence reduced to 30 years.
August 3 2021, the day of his release from Zomba Central Prison, marked the beginning of another chapter for Kara who converted from Islam to Christianity while in jail. Today, he tells his story.
In an interview from Biwi Township in Lilongwe, Kara starts by thanking God for making it possible for him to reunite with his teenage daughter, who was not yet born when he went to jail.
He says: “It is hell in there. My heart is still bleeding. It hurts to think of the 20 years I have lost for a sin I never committed. I never killed my driver.”
Kara, who aims to set up an organisation that will champion prisoners rights, claims he was betrayed by politicians.
He says: “The person they called my wife and I were already divorced at the time she and her friend went missing. There was an issue behind this, the media never pursued it, but instead made allegations that I killed the three.”
Where it all started
A jury convicted Kara in 2004 on the charge of murder of his driver, Alex Mbewe, whose body was discovered stuffed in the MP’s Mercedes Benz vehicle and pushed into a river in Salima.
At the time, it was speculated that Kara killed his driver because he knew the truth behind the disappearance of his (Kara’s) wife, Liwoli, and her friend, Chimwemwe Kamfose, in February 2002.
Kara was not tried for the murder of the two women because their bodies were never found.
The former legislator’s two bodyguards, who were his co-accused in the case but were acquitted, admitted in court that they drove Mbewe to a remote area near Salima and beat him to death on March 6 2002. However, the duo said Kara had forced them and promised them money.
Police produced a signed statement in which Kara admitted to ordering his bodyguards to kill his wife, whom he accused of swindling him out of millions of kwacha and using the money to seduce other men.
Police told the court that Kamfose was allegedly killed because she was with Kara’s wife at the time.
But in an interview this week, Kara explains how his driver’s body was found in his trunk.
The former MP says his companies had won several road construction contracts, with one of the works in Nkhotakota. At the time, he owned three companies namely Commercial Building Contractors, Eagle Civil Engineering and Commercial Trading Suppliers.
He says in the days leading up to the incident, his employees, whose names he mentioned but Nation on Sunday has withheld for ethical reasons, were fighting over a girl.
Kara says: “[Two of the men] fought at Dwangwa, and the deceased was thrown into the boot of my car. As they drove off, the car got involved in an accident and crashed into the river. The drivers escaped, leaving their friend in the boot.”
He says the accident spot was reported in the media to have been Kaombe, but it was at Kizen River Bridge, between Dwangwa and Nkhotakota, in early March of 2002.
The ex-convict says he divorced his wife back in January 2001, and that he had one child with her. He remarried in 2002 and his second wife was expectant at the time of his imprisonment.
He says he spent the first two years of his jail term and Domasi and Maula Prison before he was moved to Zomba Central Prison in 2004, where he stayed until his release.
Says Kara: “Even after serving all those years, I never accepted the situation because I considered myself an innocent man. I was betrayed by some politicians who wanted to end my political career.”
While in prison, the former legislator says the media continued to portray him in a negative light.
“If you ask any inmate or prison officers about me, they will tell you I was a peace maker. Everyone loved me. I never picked a fight with anyone.
“But what stories did the media report? ‘Kara picked a fight with a fellow prisoner, Clive Macholowe, and he has lost an eye and a leg!’. Look at me now, is that a one-eyed person you see? Since I came out of prison, the people I meet are usually astonished to see that I have both my eyes and legs intact. Crazy world this is!”
Throughout his prison stay, Kara says he never ate prison food.
“My brother, the food in prisoners is so bad that even prison officer cannot give it to their dogs. The beans are rotten and full of weevils and sand,” he says, adding that the cells are always congested, with prisoners sleeping while standing and waking up with swollen legs.
“This is the reason contagious diseases are high in prisons,” he says.
Kara says his release has not changed him much as he still feels hurt for having done time in jail for a crime he never committed.
“I never told fellow prisoners about my release. Normally, when prisoners are being released, they leave early morning, but I hung on until around 11am, bidding farewell to other inmates and prison officials,” he says.
On converting to Christianity, Kara said he felt let down that although did a lot as a Muslim, including introducing a private member’s Bill in Parliament which facilitated the establishment of a holiday during Eid al-Fitr, his Muslim friends abandoned him while in prison.
“It was mostly Christians that would come and assist us in various ways. This compelled me to join Christianity.”
Asked what his plans are now that he is out of prison, Kara only hints that he is establishing an organisation called Seeds of Justice to champion prisoners rights. He declined to provide details.
In an interview yesterday, Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance executive director Victor Mhango said his organisation was excited to see that the Kafantayeni Project was bearing fruits.
He said: “People are sent to prison to reform, regardless of the crime committed. Prison is not a home for anyone. Our appeal to communities is that they must accept people that are released from prisons and help them reintegrate in society.”