Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale has said the State took note of the guidance provided by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal regarding the eligibility of former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Raphael Kasambara to represent his co-accused.
On October 5, the State sought guidance from the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on whether Kasambara, who is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, should be allowed to represent Macdonald Kumwembe, a former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldier answering charges of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.
Speaking in interview with The Nation in Blantyre on Tuesday on how the State is progressing following the Supreme Court guidance, Kachale said the State will proceed to consider whether it should file something with the Malawi Law Society (MLS) as the regulatory body and the Attorney General (AG) as the head of the bar.
She said: “We took note of that guidance. It was still guidance in a way. Actually, we will proceed to consider whether indeed we should file something with the Attorney General as the head of the bar and the Malawi Law Society as the regulatory body.
“We are still considering, but since there are so many issues at hand, there are always priorities that one must make. But we did take note of what the court said. We have it on our list of things to do. It is just a matter of time until we take necessary action. The ruling, we found it to be a just ruling, no need to appeal.”
In its ruling on Kumwembe’s appeal against conviction for contempt of court and sentence provided on October 12, the Supreme Court said the matter raised by the DPP has implications beyond the application as there are rights of Kasambara to practise his profession and earn a living and there is also involved the right of the applicant (Kumwembe) to a legal counsel of his choice.
In the interim, Kachale said the State understands that Kumwembe changed lawyers and he is being represented by Goba Chipeta.
In October 2014, the issue of lawyers answering criminal charges continuing to represent clients in court sparked a debate.
South Africa-based Malawian professor of law at University of Cape Town, Danwood Chirwa, faulted MLS for failing to uphold the legal profession that respects minimum standards of integritty and ethical behaviour by letting lawyers answering criminal charges to continue representing clients in court.
But MLS president John Suzi-Banda, then serving as the body’s treasurer, said everyone, including lawyers, has a right to a fair trial; hence, MLS could not stop citizens who willingly engage lawyers who are answering criminal charges as their legal counsel.
In June this year, hired chief Cashgate prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu asked the High Court in Lilongwe to disqualify Kasambara, a senior counsel (SC), from representing Cashgate suspects on the basis that he is either a suspect or witness in the cases.