Presiding judge in the Paul Mphwiyo shooting trial, Michael Mtambo, says he would like to pass judgement by May this year and has warned prosecutors and defence lawyers against unnecessary delays.
Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara is charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder alongside Macdonald Kumwembe who Mphwiyo identified as the shooter, Dauka Manondo, Pika Manondo, Robert Kadzuwa and businessperson Osward Lutepo.
Mtambo on Wednesday adjourned the case to February 17 to 19 after defence lawyers finished cross-examining Mphwiyo, who is the principal witness in the case.
The judge noted that cross-examination of Mphwiyo by the defence lawyers had taken longer than necessary, in particular that of Kasambara, who is representing himself.
Said the judge: “We need to conclude the case. I don’t want unnecessary complications or technicalities. I am looking forward to giving judgement by May or even before that.”
In particular, he asked the prosecution team to make available more than one witness for trial or he would not entertain pleas for adjournments.
“I don’t see why this case should be dragging as it has been happening. I don’t like unnecessary adjournments and don’t come here prepared for an adjournment,” he said.
He added that the prosecution would be required to proceed with the case even if Lutepo, who is the sixth accused person, was not well enough to stand trial when it resumes.
Kasambara, who had cross-examined Mphwiyo for two days before he concluded on a strangely low note on Wednesday, grilled him on his other charges he is facing, which include theft and money laundering of K2.1 billion and tax evasion.
Kasambara asked Mphwiyo if he knew Lutepo to which Mphwiyo affirmed that he knew him through businesses that he owned such as Naming’omba Tea Estates.
“Do you know that he [Lutepo] is also accused of money laundering billions just like you?” Kasambara asked Mphwiyo who responded that as a witness he saw no relevance in responding about other cases.
Mphwiyo added: “I have not been charged and I have not taken plea, so I cannot know the particulars of the case.”
Another defence lawyer, John-Gift Mwakhwawa, followed a similar line of questioning, grilling Mphwiyo to explain why he sold a Toyota Fortuner which he was driving the night he was shot outside his house.
Mphwiyo evasively responded about when the vehicle was registered and he started using it, prompting Mwakhwawa to lose his temper.
“The witness knows himself that he is a liar and that is where I am heading. He is being evasive. I just want a yes or no, if he doesn’t remember could he clearly say he doesn’t remember,” Mwakhwawa said.
But Mphwiyo said he knew where Mwakhwawa’s line of questioning was heading and he did not want to prejudice his wife and trustees who sold the Toyota Fortuner through his responses in the ongoing case.
Mphwiyo’s wife, Thandizo, is also facing charges in relation to the registration of a trust which disposed of the Toyota Fortuner.