Lawyers for two of the accused in the treason case — Peter Mutharika and Symon Vuwa Kaunda — have notified the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court that they will apply to the High Court to object government’s hiring of external private lawyers to prosecute them.
The lawyers on the government benches include Ralph Mhone, Fahad Assani, Ishmael Wadi and Gift Nankhuni, who are in private practice, and Primrose Chimwaza, a senior deputy chief State Advocate, the only one from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) chambers.
However, soon after the court resumed sitting on Tuesday, one of the defence lawyers, Kalekeni Kaphale, told the court that Mutharika and Vuwa Kaunda are opposing the appointment of external lawyers.
“My clients are objecting the appointment of all of them. I am not sure about Gift Nankhuni since he was not among those who were introduced during the last sitting,” said Kaphale.
On Assani, he said there was a breach of the Constitution and failure to observe the rule of law when the DPP appointed him to join the government benches when he did not have a practising licence then.
Kaphale further argued that Mhone could not have been appointed or he could have recused himself from the case since he and Vuwa Kaunda are “political enemies” who both competed for the Nkhata Bay Central parliamentary seat in 2004 and 2009 when Mhone lost the race.
He said the poll results ended in court after Mhone sued, alleging electoral fraud.
“He still has ambitions for that constituency,” added Kaphale.
He also argued that in the appointments of the private prosecutors, the State failed to observe the Public Procurement Act as the process was not open to tender and did not involve the internal procurement committee.
After a brief exchange on the matter, which included Wadi protesting that there was no need to go into details of the objections against the private prosecutors with Assani also trying to justify his appointment, the two sides agreed to proceed with the hearing on whether the perjury charge case should proceed in the magistrate’s court.
Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe and Jean Kalilani, and interdicted Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka first appeared in court last Thursday to take plea on the perjury charge but they failed after the defence lawyers protested and asked chief resident magistrate, Ruth Chinangwa to stop the proceedings.
The defence lawyers were arguing that since the accused persons were already committed to the High Court, it would be an abuse of court process and a breach of a right to a fair trial for them to answer similar charges in the Magistrate’s court.
After the State was given the go ahead to defend itself, Mhone argued that the defence team was trying to divert from the real issue before the court.
Mhone said the DPP exercised his constitutional and legal powers when he asked the court to commit the trial to the High Court and also when he discontinued the perjury charge in the High Court.
Mhone’s submissions were supported by Assani.
However, after the submissions the proceedings could not go on after one of the defence lawyers Titus Mvalo asked for time to respond to the submissions.
Chinangwa adjourned the case to April 29 2013 following a consensus of the two sides.