The High Court in Lilongwe yesterday failed to continue hearing a case in which former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara and five others, including businessperson Osward Lutepo, are charged with the attempted murder of former budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
Mphwiyo, who was shot on September 13 2013 at the gate of his residence in Lilongwe’s Area 43, did not show up for the trial after he reportedly submitted a medical report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on Tuesday that he was not in good health to undergo cross-examination.
Of the accused persons, only Macdonald Kumwembe, who Mphwiyo identified as his shooter, Pika Manondo and Lutepo who has been added to the case, showed up.
High Court judge Michael Mtambo had set November 12 to 14 to resume the case, but the dates have been disrupted due to an ongoing Judiciary support staff strike, which started on Monday and has paralysed delivery of justice nationwide.
The striking workers barred DPP Mary Kachale, State prosecutor Enoch Chibwana and others accessing courtrooms for a meeting when they appeared at the courts yesterday.
All indications that the case would not take place were clear as the support staff had converged on the grounds seated on courtroom benches while Kachale and her colleagues stood about discussing their next move.
But when they were prevented from meeting within the chief resident magistrate’s court and moved to the High Court, the Judiciary staff followed them while singing and chanting to disrupt the discussions with the judge in the shooting case. Mtambo travelled from Blantyre to preside over the case.
It took the intervention of Judge Esme Chombo and registrar Justus Kishindo to calm the group, which threatened to destroy Mtambo’s vehicle if he did not leave the premises.
“The DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] is also concerned about this situation and how we proceed. We are just discussing how to proceed, not meeting in chambers to decide a new date,” Kishindo assured the irate staff.
Placated, the staff resumed their seats in the courtyard as the DPP, Mtambo and defence lawyer Wapona Kita resumed their talks.
Addressing the staff afterwards, Kishindo assured them that no case would proceed and the lawyers had since left the court premises.
In an interview after the meeting, Kita said the case had been adjourned indefinitely on lawyers’ request and no new dates had been set.
The three-day strike has irked court users such as Grace Daimoni of Mtandire Township in Lilongwe whose son was due to appear in court today on charges of possession of stolen property.
“My son has been at Maula [Prison] since last month and has not come to court since then. I am not happy. If they want to strike they should allow others to work while discussions are taking place. We are suffering coming here from very far only to sit here doing nothing,” Daimoni said.