The High Court in Lilongwe on has sentenced former Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Raphael Kasambara, to 13 years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) for conspiring to murder former budget director Paul Mphwiyo together withMacdonald Kumwembe and Pika Manondo.
The maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder is 14 years imprisonment with hard labour.
The court also handed down custodial sentences of 15 years and 11 years IHL on Kumwembe and Manondo for the two counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to murder, respectively. Attempted murder carries a maximum of life imprisonment.
The two sentences on Kumwembe and Manondo will run consecutively, translating into 26 years imprisonment.
Before the sentencing, which was preceded by oral submissions on sentencing, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale notified the court that Kasambara had hired two more lawyers in the name of Modeccai Msiska, SC, and Wanangwa Hara to represent him in the cases.
Kachale also told the court that Kumwembe and Manondo, too, had hired Michael Goba Chipeta to represent them.
The defence raised a number of factors in pleading with the court to spare custodial sentences on the convicts.
Kasambara’s legal team, which comprised Lusungu Gondwe, Hara and Msiska, said their client was the first offender, young in age and that the offence he committed was not an appropriate one to warrant the court to mete out a custodial sentence.
Msiska further stated that the court needed to reflect on the services Kasambara had rendered to the nation both as a private-practice lawyer as well as minister and Attorney General (AG) before the commission of the crime.
He submitted: “Our client has been a man of good character all through until the events that led to this crime happened. And this was also demonstrated through the behaviour he portrayed when this court gave him bail in the very same case.”
Msiska stated that Kasambara had shown remorse during the trial.
However, this submission prompted Justice Mtambo, to immediately demand evidence from the defence that Kasambara was remorseful during trial.
The judge went on to say the manner in which the former minister handled himself before the court during trial did not show that the convict was remorseful.
Mtambo cited one incident where Kasambara made verbal threats on one of the witnesses as an example of a convict that is not remorseful.
“Can you provide me with evidence that the third accused (Kasambara) was remorseful? Again, between the State and defence, who is supposed to give evidence of remorse?” asked the judge.
At this point, Msiska asked the court to allow him consult his client. After exchanging verbal notes with Kasambara, Msiska told the court: “My client regrets the events that led to the circumstances he is in today. And that could be evidence that he is remorseful.”
On her part, Kachale said the former Justice minister was a danger to the society; hence, a custodial sentence would be the most appropriate one for him.
She also submitted that Kumwembe is a serious danger to the society as he had portrayed that trained soldiers could use the skills gained from military trainings to “organise crimes and conspire to kill in the society”.
After listening to oral submissions from both parties, Mtambo adjourned the case for 10 minutes, apparently to prepare his sentence.
And when he returned, the judge said he agreed with the State that suspended sentences or community service would not be the appropriate ones in this matter.
Mtambo also emphasised that the convicts had created a psychological trauma, which the shooting survivor (Mphwiyo) and his family will live with for the rest of their lives.
“Above all, the purpose of the sentence is not only to punish the offender, but also to protect the life of the same. I, therefore, sentence the first and second accused persons to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour on the first count of attempted murder; and, another 11 years IHL for conspiracy to murder. These sentences will run consecutively,” said the judge before handing down a 13-year jail term on Kasambara.
State prosecutor Enock Chibwana said they were satisfied with the outcome of the case.
The defence could not comment as they left immediately the judge the adjourned bail application.
Meanwhile, the judge has reserved his ruling on bail application by the three convicts to September 28 2016.
The convicted trio has since filed notices of appeal with the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal challenging their conviction.
Mphwiyo’s shooting outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on the night of September 13 2013 is widely believed to have led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Former president Banda ordered an audit undertaken by British forensic audit firm, Baker Tilly, covering the period between April and September 2013. The audit established that about K24 billion ($32.9 million) was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.