Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara yesterday denounced as flawed High Court judge Michael Mtambo’s verdict that found him and two others guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Kasambara alongside businessperson Pika Manondo and former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldier Macdonald Kumwembe were co-accused on the conspiracy to murder charge whereas Kumwembe and Manondo also faced the charge of attempting to murder former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
Speaking on the telephone to an unidentified family member before being taken to Maula Central Prison in Lilongwe, Kasambara was overheard saying: “It was all staged. They have got what they wanted.”
On the phone, Kasambara was also overheard telling his wife, Maggie, to be strong, saying: “Be brave Maggie. Take care of the children.”
A police van waited for him as he spoke on the phone after his conviction.
Hinting at the possibility of an appeal, Kasambara repeated the accusations against the State and court in front of cameras which for the first time were allowed in court to beam the judgement live.
Kasambara’s conviction yesterday meant the former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, who on September 13 2013, the day Mphwiyo was shot outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe, was meeting former South African president Thabo Mbeki, became the highest official in the Joyce Banda administration to be jailed in connection with crimes related to Cashgate.
Mphwiyo’s shooting is widely believed to have exposed Cashgate, the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Former president Joyce Banda ordered a forensic audit undertaken by British firm Baker Tilly covering the period between April and September 2013. The audit established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May last year, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014. However, a recent forensic audit has established that the unaccounted for funds are in the region of K236 billion.
Kasambara refused to wear handcuffs, tussling with armed police officers who were taking him to prison. He protested that he to escape.was not a criminal seeking
Mphwiyo not in court
Mphwiyo, absent in court yesterday, survived the bullets fired by assassins that lurked in the dark at the gate of his house. He was rushed to the Masm Clinic few blocks away from his house before being taken to Kamuzu Central Hospital. Days later, he was airlifted to South Africa.
However, Mphwiyo’s initial reputation as an anti-corruption crusader was dented by his own arrest on Cashgate-related charges.
The State, which prosecuted the case through the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office, yesterday opted to look at the success of the conviction.
Enock Chibwana, a private practice lawyer hired to prosecute the case, hailed the verdict that took Mtambo one and a half hours to deliver as “justice done”. Mtambo, however, described it as brave and forthright, despite some inconsistencies.
On the charge of attempted murder, Mtambo said while Mphwiyo’s description of a small youngman at the scene of the crime could describe Manondo, that alone was not enough evidence to convict him on the charge and as such the victim did not see him at that Area 43 house.
However, he narrated that call logs put Manondo on or near the scene of the crime, even though that was not enough to convict a person without additional evidence.