Court discharge Mondiwa in Malawi housing scam

The Blantyre Magistrates Court has thrown out a high profile multi-million housing scam case involving reinstated Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) assistant general manager, Floyd Mondiwa after the State  failed to obtain consent from Director of Public Prosecution to prosecute the matter.

Mondiwa was arrested on October 24, 2011 by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) for abuse of office and failure to declare interest when his wife intended to purchase an MHC house as stipulated in the institution’s corruption prevention policy.

He was arrested just days after the anti-graft body also arrested MHC ex-general Manager, Golden Matiya on similar charges.

The court discharged Matiya in July last year after the State failed to commence prosecution as the ACB had not obtained consent from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as recommended by law.

Mondiwa: Freed

Mondiwa: Freed

Both Mondiwa and Matiya were separately answering to charges of non disclosure of interest by public officers contrary to Section 25 D(1) of the Corrupt Practices Act and one count of misuse of public office contrary to Section 25B (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act.

 

Discharge

On Friday, February 1,  Blanntyre Senior Residence Magistrate, Innocent Nebi upheld application by Mondiwa’s lawyer, Chancy Gondwe to discharge his client on the grounds that the ACB has for the past 18 months failed to formally charge and prosecute the accused despite the arrest.

“There is unreasonable delay on the part of State to commence prosecutions. The conduct of ACB Director in failing to prosecute the accused, infringes his right to fair trial. Liberty and fair trial interests have been prejudiced because of undue delay,” Gondwe told the court.

Gondwe further argued that his client felt being persecuted and not prosecuted following the failure by the ACB to prosecute him, adding the act was tantamount to oppression.

“We ask the court to discharge the accused as was the case with another accused in similar case. The State has delayed unreasonably. But the ACB is at liberty to recommence the case once they obtain the consent from DPP and re-arrest the accused”.

ACB legal counsel led by David Bandawe did not object to the application to discharge Mondiwa.

“Following the no objection from the State, the accused stand discharged. And I set aside all his bail conditions,” Nebi said in his ruling.

Mondiwa is said to have abused his office when he failed to declare interest on the MHC house Ne/18, which his wife intended to purchase contrary to Section 25D of the Corrupt Practices Act.

Background

MHC a government parastatal, lost about K105 million (about $690 789) by selling 22 houses at highly discounted prices that were also said to be less than half the market rates.

The then ministers under former President late Bingu wa Mutharika cabinet, Professor Peter Mutharika and John Bande bought the houses at heavily reduced rates including Matiya.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the south, Noel Masangwi and former Attorney General (now Supreme Court of Appeal judge) Dr. Jane Ansah, also benefitted.

Matiya came under heavy pressure in April this year when it was revealed that MHC had sold houses for a song mainly to influential people and politicians and made a loss of a whopping K105 million. The politicians included late President Bingu Mutharika’s brother, Peter.

Apart from facilitating the sale of the houses to the politicians and influential people, Matiya bought a house at K2.6 million after getting a discount of about 33 percent.

Following the arrest both Matiya and Mondiwa lost their jobs but the latter was reinstated in his position by Industrial Relations Court regarding the suspension as unlawful. The court ordered MHC to pay Mondiwa all his dues dating back to the time he was suspended.

The prosecution of MHC officials by ACB was regarded by many Malawians as a ‘missed link’ arguing that the anti-graft body would have instead wasted its energy and resources on bringing to book the ‘big fish’ in this case the senior DPP gurus that were implicated in the scam than going after Matiya and his deputy.

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