The High Court in Blantyre will on Thursday rule on whether businessperson Thomson Mpinganjira has a case to answer in his alleged judges’ bribery case.
According to a notice dated April 6 2021, signed by registrar of the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Gladys Gondwe, the ruling is expected to be delivered in open court from 10am.
Reads the notice, in part: “Take notice that the High Court has set the 15th day of April 2021, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, to deliver the ruling for the above mentioned matter before Hon Justice DA DeGabrielle sitting at Blantyre High Court in open court.”
Initially, the court was scheduled to deliver the ruling on March 9 2021, but failed to proceed as Mpinganjira was reportedly unwell to appear before the court.
The court, therefore, convened virtually on March 22 to check on whether Mpinganjira would appear before the court. His lead lawyer Patrice Nkhono said his client was still feeling unwell then.
However, Nkhono told our sister newspaper The Nation, in an interview, that if the court was to set a date for the ruling in April, it would be convenient for his client.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, Nkhono said Mpinganjira is now feeling well and will be available for the ruling.
“Yes, I have seen the notice and he [Mpinganjira] will likely be available to appear before the court for the ruling,” said Nkhono.
Mpinganjira, who was arrested in January last year, is accused of attempting to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court to rule in favour of Peter Mutharika in the presidential election nullification case.
The business mogul is answering charges under the Corrupt Practices Act such as offering an advantage to a public officer, attempting to induce public officers to exercise functions of their offices corruptly and for purportedly attempting to influence public officers by offering K100 million to High Court judge Mike Tembo, a member of the five-panel judges.
Last December, Nkhono asked the court to acquit his client because the State failed to prove the charges against him despite parading six witnesses who included the five judges and an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigator.
He also said that while Mpinganjira offered a parcel to the five judges, the State failed to show any element of corruption in the offer.
But, in his submission on behalf of the prosecution team, former ACB director Reyneck Matemba argued that from the conversations between Tembo and Mpinganjira, there was evidence of existence of a parcel whose contents were discussed at a later stage.
He also read transcripts of the said conversations in court, further countering assertions that Mpinganjira did not have a fair trial.
In addition, Matemba said in offering the parcel, Mpinganjira knew what he was doing in running his “project” which he had told two of the judges—Tembo and Healey Potani.
While asking the court to make its determination on whether Mpinganjira has a case to answer based on the evidence provided before the court, Matemba said the fact that the judges reported the matter late did not jeopardise investigations.
In the course of the case, on October 22 2020, Mpinganjira applied for a plea bargain with the State to save time and resources, but it was later withdrawn as Nkhono said the evidence which ACB disclosed did not speak to the charges levelled against his client.
Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition) defines ‘plea bargaining’ as the process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval.