As official campaign period for this year’s tripartite elections opened Tuesday, two parliamentary candidates—one for UTM and another for Malawi Congress Party (MCP)—will have to reconcile their time between campaigning and appearing in court to defend theft charges against them.
MCP parliamentary candidate for Blantyre City Centre, Kondi Msungama, is answering charges of impersonating an Immigration officer with alleged intent to swindle a Blantyre-based Burundian businessperson, Emmanuel Gatera Alphonse, of K6 350 000.
The money was allegedly part of an agreement Msungama—a businessperson-cum-politician—would facilitate processing of citizenships for Alphonse and eight members of his family, according to a court record Nation on Sunday has seen.
In the matter, being prosecuted by regional prosecutions officer at Southern Region Police, Dickens Mwambazi, UTM parliamentary candidate for Blantyre Bangwe, George Saonda, is named as the one who introduced Msungama to the Burundian and his family, the court records state.
Both accused persons, aspiring for elected public office as legislators, and a third accused person Daniel Masina Chikhaula of Njonja Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachere in Dedza, denied the charges, which are theft by false pretence and impersonating a public officer.
UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, while saying, in an interview on Friday, that it was not comment on matters that are in court, said the criminal matter involving their candidate was personal and the party had nothing to do with it.
MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali said, in an interview yesterday, that the party would not want to make any presumed judgement on the allegations levelled against Msungama.
“If anything, the MCP will always stick to one of its key pillars, which is the rule of law, where justice must always be seen to prevail without bias, prejudice or malice. It is our hope that Msungama will want to legally follow the right paths even as he pulls himself out of the allegations,” he said.
The trio—Msungama, Saonda and Chikhaula—accompanied by their lawyers, appeared before Lunzu Magistrate’s Court on Thursday when the trial was set to begin.
But their lawyers—Luciano Mickeus, representing Msungama and Dalitso Mataka, representing Saonda and Chikhaula—sought an adjournment on the grounds that they were not ready and needed more time to prepare their defence.
Second grade adjourned the case to April 26 this year for trial, with the accused persons to continue remaining on court bail. magistrate Patrick Mwamele At the time the alleged offences were committed, Saonda served as director of events in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), before he fell out of grace with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and joined UTM.
The court record shows that Msungama was at one point introduced to the complainant by Saonda at Immigration Headquarters in Blantyre, as an intelligence officer working undercover at the department.
The accused persons were arrested by Chileka Police last October and got their court bail the same month, at a bond of K250 000 each, the court record shows.
Alphonse said in his recorded witness statement that Msungama and Saonda could no longer be found and were ignoring his telephone calls after the monies were collected.
In the matter involving Msungama, Saonda and Chikhaula, the accused persons would have to counter claims by the complainant, Alphonse, as per his sworn affidavit, that Saonda assured him he would assist as he was strategically connected to those in authority and demanded K1 million to kick-start the process.
Alphonse said in his affidavit that he realised later that Saonda had allegedly stolen his money after he made some inquiries at the Immigration.
Chikhaula, according to the court records, was sent by Saonda from Lilongwe to Blantyre to collect K650 000 from the complainant.
In his sworn caution statement Nation on Sunday has seen, Chikhaula, a building contractor, said Saonda owed him money and he advised him to go to Blantyre to meet Alphonse to collect the money.
The matter has finally gone to court after failed out-of-court settlement despite commitments made by the accused persons, through their lawyers, to refund the money fortnighly by instalments of K1 million.