Cashgate suspect Victor Sithole on Tuesday became the second public officer to be jailed in connection with the plunder of public resources known as Cashgate when the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court sentenced him to nine years imprisonment with hard labour.
Senior resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa’s sentence surpasses that of High Court judge Ivy Kamanga who sentenced former principal secretary Tressa Namathanga Senzani to three years imprisonment for money laundering and nine months for theft which are running concurrently.
Sithole has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for money laundering, one year for possession of stolen money and one year for illegal possession of forex. The sentences will run consecutively, meaning Sithole will serve them one after another.
Money laundering has a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The heavy sentence meted on Sithole comes against the background of outcries from the public over the three years given to the first Cashgate convict, Senzani.
But Kamanga’s critics fell short of appreciating the mitigating circumstances she considered, among them, that Senzani had given back the K63 million and did not waste the court’s time by pleading guilty to the charges.
Sithole was found guilty on three counts involving money found in his possession amounting to K112 million, $31 850 and 122 000 rands in September last year, which will be forfeited to government.
However, murmurs of disapproval were audible in the jam-packed courtroom when Chirwa pronounced Sithole’s fate.
In reaction, Sithole, who had remained still, gave a mirthless laugh as he was led away from the court.
His wife, Tamanda, openly sobbed in the arms of his sister as he remained in the remandees’ shed at the court.
In passing sentence, Chirwa said: “I have ruled out the possibility of a fine, only a custodial sentence should be meted out here. It would also be a mockery of justice to hand out a suspended sentence. However, the maximum sentences are reserved for the worst of offenders, but the offender does not deserve a short-term because of his culpability in these offences.”
Chirwa said he had considered that Sithole was youthful, at 27, a first offender and that he has been in custody for over one year.
Sithole’s lawyer, Ted Roka, the fourth to appear in court on his behalf, said it was too soon to pronounce if he would appeal the sentence.