Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara yesterday got his wish to have High Court judge Chifundo Kachale out of the K5.7 billion money laundering case.
Kasambara asked the judge to hand over the case on the basis that Kachale’s wife, Mary, is prosecuting the case in her capacity as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Kasambara’s co-accused, Pika Manondo, asked the judge to recuse himself on grounds that Pika’s brother, Dauka, is alleged to have threatened the DPP; hence, Pika argued he could not have a fair trial. However, Pika’s application was rejected.
Ruling on Kasambara’s application, the judge said if the trial in Zomba—where businessperson and politician Oswald Lutepo was convicted on his own plea of guilty—presided over by judge Redson Kapindu was being prosecuted by anyone else from the DPP’s chambers, other than the DPP herself, Kasambara’s application would have failed.
He said: “The court has upheld the request by Kasambara alleging the court’s close social ties with the DPP, who has been conducting an allied trial before Justice Kapindu, raises reasonable apprehension of some perception of lack of impartiality.
“Principally, it has been proposed that the court accepts that such perceptions are bound to rise in a context where the two separate trials are being presented by the State as part of the interrelated criminal enterprise.
“One may thus question whether there are exchanges of evidence or inappropriate discussions between the court and the Director of Public Prosecutions, any outcome from such a trial would lack the legitimacy and integrity pivotal to the inspiration and preservation of untainted public confidence in our judicial system.”
On Pika’s application, Kachale said his spouse is not presently involved in the proceedings, and that the proceedings are about Pika’s alleged involvement in criminal acts.
Kachale further said the court remains conscious of the reality that the institutional legitimacy and procedural integrity of the criminal justice system is in serious jeopardy of being imperiled due to the sudden increase of applicants for recusal.
In an earlier application in the case of attempted murder of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo, judge Michael Mtambo refused to step down as per Kasambara’s application, saying he will remain impartial. n