Businessperson and philanthropist Thomson Mpinganjira has filed an application for bail in the High Court of Malawi pending hearing of an appeal against both his conviction and sentence.
High Court Judge Dorothy DeGabrielle on September 10 2021 found Mpinganjira guilty of attempting to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi who presided over the historic May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition.
Court documents show that Mpinganjira is arguing that there was a mistrial on the basis that his case was partially heard virtually, an arrangement he said was unconstitutional and unlawful as it infringed on his right to a public trial.
Mpinganjira, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, is also arguing that the court wrongfully and unreasonably interjected while his lawyers were conducting cross-examination in the course of trial which was unlawful.
Reads in part his application: “The court unreasonably purported to revoke bail which had not fallen away without any proper reason and the claimant [Mpinganjira] was repeatedly warned that he would be sent to prison if he was to try to delay trial which amounted to intimidation, was unconstitutional and unlawful and therefore renders the trial void.”
Mpinganjira is also disputing his conviction on the basis that it was not supported by evidence as there was no proof of essential elements of the offences he was convicted on.
While further arguing that his appeal may not be heard anytime soon due to lack of a quorum in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Mpinganjira is also arguing that his appeal is likely to succeed as his conviction is not supported by any evidence.
Meanwhile, registrar of the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Gladys Gondwe has said hearing of the application will be on November 18 2021 before Judge John Chirwa.
In an interview yesterday, she said the matter has been passed on to Chirwa because DeGabrielle will soon leave the country for further studies.
Gondwe said: “According to the law, such an application is to be made before the court that sentenced the convict. Once that particular court makes convict not be satisfied, he is at liberty to go to the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.” its determination, should the
In a separate interview, Ritz Attorneys spokesperson Lozindaba Mbvundula, whose firm is handling Mpinganjira’s appeal, said their client’s circumstances were exceptional and require him to be released pending hearing of his appeal.
She said: “The Supreme Court does not have a quorum to hear his appeal and it is, therefore, uncertain how long it will take for the appeal to actually be heard.
“To hear an appeal, a minimum of seven justices of appeal has to sit. However, four of the eight justices of appeal are conflicted, this only leaves four justices of appeal who are in a position to hear his appeal, rendering the court inquorate.”
Mpinganjira was arrested in January 2020 following a complaint Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda lodged with the Anti- Corruption Bureau that there were attempts to bribe five Constitutional Court judges to rule in favour of Democratic Progressive Party president Peter Mutharika in the presidential election nullification case.
He was answering six charges under the Corrupt Practices Act, but was convicted on two of the six counts.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison on October 5 2021 by DeGabrielle.