Business tycoon Thomson Mpinganjira yesterday spent seven hours in the dock testifying in his judges’ bribery case after High Court Judge Dorothy DeGabrielle earlier dismissed his application for her recusal.
In his testimony, which started around 11am and ended at around 18:14, Mpinganjira told the court that he never attempted to bribe the five High Court judges that sat as the Constitutional Court to preside over the historic 2019 presidential election nullification case.
The businessperson, who appeared tensed up at the beginning of his testimony, alluded to the fact that he engaged in a conversation with Judge Mike Tembo and talked about the existence of a parcel.
However, he told the court that the parcel did not exist as he wanted to use it as a bait to have Tembo link him to Judge Healey Potani.
Responding to a question from his lawyer Patrice Nkhono on why he wanted to meet Potani, Mpinganjira told the court that he had heard from his cousin Brown Mpinganjira that Potani was receiving parcels through a certain judge whose source could have been the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The mogul said he wanted to verify facts of the matter, adding that, as a businessperson, he is interested in the environment which his businesses are operating in.
During Nkhono’s cross-examination, Mpinganjira was shown records of funding he has been making to various political parties to prove to the court that he does not have a favourite party that could have compelled him to bribe the judges to rule in its favour.
According to the funding records, Mpinganjira has been sponsoring the DPP, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Partyand the UTM Party. He also alleged that he has on numerous occasions met leaders of the political parties or through their trusted aides.
But during his cross – examination , State lead prosecutor Reyneck Matemba argued that the funding records are not in anyway related to the charges Mpinganjira is answering.
He told Mpinganjira that despite trying to distance himself from the erstwhile governing party, all leads point to the fact he has strong ties to the party.
Among others, Matemba pointed out his holding of more public offices under the two DPP regimes, his being
recommended as a running mate by late Paramount Chief Ngolongoliwa and his buying of Malawi Savings Bank which was under dispute due to toxic loans.
But Mpinganjira, who asked the court to provide him with security for fear of being attacked, told the court that he was also approached by the MCP through director of State Residences Prince Kapondamgaga in September 2019 to be President Lazarus Chakwera’s running mate in the June 23 Fresh Presidential Election; hence, does not have preference for a specific political party.
After the cross – examination, Nkhono asked the court to adjourn the case to a later date when the defence would parade two or three witnesses.
DeGabrielleadjourned the hearing to June 1 2021.
But prior to Mpinganjira’s testimony, the judge ruled that she could not recuse herself from the case, arguing that the application the defence made was based on hearsay.
According to DeGabrielle, who read Mpinganjira’s affidavit in support of the recusal application, the defence alleged that she with senior High Court Judge Sylvester Kalembera, through a third party, offered to give Mpinganjira a favourable outcome of the case such as an acquittal or a suspended sentence in exchange for K200 million.
However, Mpinganjira alleged in the affidavit that while the matter was reported to both the Anti- Corruption Bureau and police, he turned down the offer on the basis that he is in the predicament due to the same High Court judges.
He, therefore, said he made the recusal application to have a fair trial. ButDeGabrielle dismissed the allegation as baseless.
In an interview after the hearing, ACB chief legal and prosecutions officer Victor Chiwala said they believe the State has a strong case against Mpinganjira.
In a separate interview, Nkhono wa s non-committal on whether they will proceed with the appeal on recusal at the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, saying their options are still open.
Mpinganjira is answering several charges under the Corruption Practices Act.