Almost a year after convicted former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara was granted bail pending appeal, a court record crucial for the hearing is not ready.
In an interview this week, Judiciary spokesperson Agnes Patemba explained that the High Court is expected to prepare the court record for the Supreme Court of Appeal to start processing the case for hearing.
Kasambara was granted bail on March 14 2018 by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Dunstain Mwaungulu after spending a year and seven months in prison.
Kasambara was convicted to 13 years for conspiracy to murder former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
The judge had ordered for a speedy appeal hearing but the process has stalled and, according to Patemba, it is not easy to say how long the preparations may take.
“It depends on how big the lower court record is,” said Patemba who did not respond to our queries on whether the court is doing anything to speed up the process.
The State, however, says it is ready for the hearing and is only waiting for the court to set the dates.
According Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which is prosecuting the case, already made its submissions.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) has since pointed out that it is up to the parties involved to speed up the matter by following up on the progress of the court record.
MLS honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde, in a telephone interview, also indicated that the party that is benefiting from the status quo may not be interested to fast-track preparation of the court record.
Said Kaukonde: “The court itself, if it puts its mind to it that there is need to have the court record settled within three months, it can happen. The parties can give themselves timelines as to when this can happen, and it can happen.”
In 2016 Parliament passed the amendment to the Courts Act which allows the Chief Justice to promagate rules of the civil procedure law in the High Court to improve justice delivery.
The country had been using civil procedure rules used in England and Wales developed in 1965. But the two countries have since reformed the rules over the years to modernise civil procedure litigation.
In his judgement last year, Mwaungulu observed that there seemed to be an apparent contradiction on finding Kasambara not guilty of the attempted murder charge, but finding him guilty of the conspiracy to murder.
Kasambara, who served as minister in the Joyce Banda administration, was jailed by High Court judge Michael Mtambo for conspiracy to murder in a crime linked to a multi-billion kwacha corruption ring.