Zomba-based High Court Judge Zione Ntaba yesterday recused herself from the murder case of MacDonald Masambuka, citing the inclusion, by the defence, of a relation’s name in the case as the reason.
She said the defence, especially Legal Aid, has continuously been mentioning Hetherwick Ntaba [her uncle] as a witness to one of the suspects, Alfred Yohane.
Masambuka, a person with albinism, is believed to have been murdered in Machinga in April last year.
“Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba is my paternal uncle, my deceased father’s brother and judicial ethics require that where there is potential conflict of interest due to family ties, the court shall take steps to address
those issues, including recusing oneself from handling the matter case,” said Ntaba.
She further said she had on severaltimes raised the matter with the defence, especially Legal Aid Bureau, not to pre-empt them from raising the name in their defence but because it meant that, the court could not have proceeded to preside over the trial once the identity of this Ntaba was known.
Therefore, on Thursday when the Legal Aid lawyers made the application to add Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba into Yohane’s statement, the court decided to allow that because it was obvious that they were intending to do so all along.
“This court should state that it is highly unfortunate that it finds itself having to deal with recusal of this matter at this stage and not at a much earlier stage, when it had continuously requested the defence lawyers to clarify
in advance on the same,” she said.
The judge said following her recusal from the case, the file of the case will be transferred to the High Court Criminal Division at the Principal Registry in Blantyre, to be assigned to another judge.
She further ordered the assistant registrar at the High Court in Zomba to ensure that the file is transferred to Blantyre by May 20 2019.
She later told the accused persons that they shall be informed through their lawyers when the matter shall resume or restart depending on the next judge’s directions.
On Thursday, Yohane implicated some high-profile politicians (names withheld) before the Judge adjourned for yesterday.
The body of Masambuka, 22, was found buried on April 1 2018, after he was reported missing in March the same year.