The case in which renowned lawyer Ralph Kasambara, businessman Pika and his elder brother Dauka, Robert Kadzuwa and Mac Donald Kumwembe are charged of allegedly conspiring and attempting to kill former Malawi Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo, whose shooting on 13 September 2013 led to the unravelling of the systematic looting of millions of government money dubbed ‘cashgate’, failed to start on Wednesday November 12 as the striking judiciary support staff disrupted the hearing.
The court staff demanding that government should increase their salaries as it did with all civil servants.
The support staff includes court reporters that record all court proceedings, stenographers who transcribe them, court clerks, secretaries and guards. Their action will likely paralyse the courts and access to justice.
According to defence lawyer Wapona Kita, before they started briefing Justice Michael Ntambo in his chamber, the support staff started singing songs of protest.
“We have been told that we will be communicated as to when the case will start soon after the strike has been called off,” said Kita in an interview.
Kasambara was supposed to continue cross examining Mphwiyo in the case.
In the last sitting, Kasambara punched holes in the testimony of shooting victim Mphwiyo, disputing claims that he saw his gunman at the scene and he was being pressurised to make dubious payments to companies.
Defence lawyers for the accused persons also disputed claims that Mphwiyo identified the gunman as Macdonald Kumwembe, lawyer Ralph Kasambara and businessman Pika Manondo when he was shot.
It was also Kasambara, who is representing himself, who brought in the element that the car Mphwiyo was driving on September 13 as having been stolen and unregistered to which Mphwiyo said he was not aware of.
Kita, lawyer for Kumwembe, Kadzuwa and Dauka tendered as evidence a passport of Kumwembe which indicated that he travelled to Mozambique between August 30 and September 14 2013.
The gun-shot survivor in his testimony told the court that Brown Mpinganjira, a senior government official in the former Joyce Banda administration, warned him that former Justice Minister and Attorney Ralph Kasambara and another former ruling People’s Party (PP) official Hophmally Makande, had given him “ten days to live” unless he honoured certain government payments.
Makande, a former PP spokesman, is not on trial for the case but Kasambara, who has been charged with conspiracy to murder Mphwiyo, denies the charges. He is on trial alongside four others, including a cashgate chief suspect Oswald Lutepo who was recently included as an accused in the matter.
Mphwiyo told the court that two bullets hit him in the mandible and another went through his shoulder to his chest. One bullet was removed in a South African hospital but two others – lodged in his spinal column – will remain inside the 38-year-old for the rest of his life.
Mphwiyo’s shooting unravelled ‘cashgate’ as his shooting came after millions of cash in Malawi kwacha, US dollars and South African rands started pitching up in unlikely places like in car trunks, baby dolls, under beds or in pillow cases where one Victor Sithole, a junior accountant in government was arrested and recently jailed nine years.
Western donor countries and agencies reacted by freezing aid for Malawi.
At least 70 suspects are currently in court facing fraud, corruption and money laundering charges surrounding ‘cashgate’, Malawi’s worst financial scandal in its 50 years as an independent country.—(Additional reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times)Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :