A new judge has been identified to take up the case of the attempted murder of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo following the recusal of the previous judge on request from two of the accused persons.
Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara, businessperson Pika Manondo, Dauka Manondo, Robert Kadzuwa and Macdonald Kumwembe are charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Kasambara and Pika Manondo’s lawyers asked High Court judge Esmie Chombo to recuse herself based on comments she allegedly made that she was receiving pressure from unknown quarters over the shooting case.
Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court of Malawi registrar Joseph Chigona confirmed in an interview yesterday that the Judiciary had assigned a new judge from Blantyre who would travel to Lilongwe to start trial on a date to be confirmed after discussions with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“The judge has been identified and we are currently discussing with the DPP on the date the judge can travel to Lilongwe to give direction on the case so that trial can finally commence. But the name of the judge will not be mentioned for security reasons,” Chigona said.
DPP Bruno Kalemba also confirmed that a judge had been identified and his office was ready to start trial.
He said: “We will probably have a date by Wednesday, but not to hear witnesses considering this is a new judge who will need to familiarise with the case, but just to agree on when the case can start in earnest.”
Confirmation of a new judge for the case has come at a time when reports are rife that Mphwiyo, who is the key witness in his own shooting which partially disfigured his face, was no longer in the country.
But Kalemba said: “Mr Mphwiyo’s presence as a witness is extremely important, but he is not under any formal restrictions on travel. When we have a date for trial and he is nowhere to be seen then we can start getting worried. But even then, we have 10 witnesses who can start testifying before he does.”
Mphwiyo, whose shooting unravelled a racket of theft and money laundering of public resources, amounting to K13 billion according to the forensic audit report, was stopped from temporarily proceeding for a medical check-up in South Africa a few weeks ago.
Alleged contents of his affidavit in his case indicated that he mentioned Kasambara and another person as the persons behind his shooting outside his Area 43 house.
The office of the DPP has also refused to disclose call logs for Mphwiyo and businessperson Osward Lutepo who is alleged to have links with both the former budget director and former minister of Justice.