A year after the case was concluded, the High Court is yet to deliver judgement on the murder of Macdonald Masambuka, a boy with albinism in Machinga. The development has attracted questions from both the Legal Aid Bureau and Association of People with Albinism, and a local chief.
Masambuka was abducted and killed in 2018 and 12 people are accused of this murder.
The dramatic trial, which had senior officials in the previous administration named, concluded in March last year and since then, the nation awaits judgement from the presiding Judge Dorothy Nyakaunda Kamanga.
In an interview, director for the Legal Aid Bureau Masauko Chamkakala, whose organisation was representing nine of the 12 suspects, said the delay in delivering judgement creates what he called “mental anguish” for the accused persons who are eagerly waiting for their fate.
Chamkakala said they have, twice, written the Judiciary on the matter but without any response such that they are contemplating making a formal application to the court, to have the suspects granted bail, pending judgement.
“We are yet to get a response from the court on the official complaint we have written them on the delay. It is time this case was concluded. The lives of our clients have been brought to a standstill as they have been in prison for over three years,” said Chamkakala.
In an interview with Nation on Sunday, Senior Chief Mkowola of Machinga said he is under pressure from his subjects, who are asking for progress on the case.
“People are coming to my house as early as 6 O’clock in the morning to inquire on the progress of the case. I am tired now of telling them that the case is still in court, because the delay is just unjustifiable,” he said.
Human rights activist Michael Kaiyatsa, who is executive director for the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), has also thrown his weight on the matter, saying what the court is doing in delaying the judgement, is the same as depriving the accused their right to fair trial.
Defence lawyer Timothy Chirwa, says the judgement delay has negative effects on both the court and the affected families.
“If the judge finds nothing wrong with the accused, let her set them free. It they have wronged the law, let her convict them; otherwise, this is totally unfair,” said Chirwa.
The State, through Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, says it is waiting for the court to set date for the judgement.
The ministry’s spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala says, just like other concerned parties in the case, it is the wish of the State, too, to see the matter concluded.
President for the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) Ian Simbota said they are losing patience such that they plan to meet the Chief Justice through the presidential adviser on Albinism and Disability Overstone Kondowe.
He also indicated that they have been in touch with the Director of Public Prosecutions Steve Kayuni to engage Judiciary on the matter.
But Kayuni, in a telephone interview yesterday, while confirming having an engagement with Apam, said there is not much that can be done but to wait for the judgement.
Legal expert Professor Mwiza Nkhata said the concerns are legitimate on the delayed judgement, adding that such complaints do not amount to interference.
“The interests of victims, suspects as well as the larger society require that trials should be concluded quickly so that the innocence or guilt of victims is resolved expeditiously,” said Nkhata.
In response to our questionnaire Registrar for the High Court and Supreme Court Gladys Gondwe said the judgement should be delivered in the next two months. She further said such delays were as a result of workload and the nature of the case.
Among those arrested in connection with Masamuka’s murder are Roman Catholic priest Father Thomas Muhosha, police officer Chikondi Chileka, the deceased’s biological brother Kassim Masambuka and Machinga District Hospital clinical cfficer Lumbani Kamanga.