Judge Kamanga asks to step aside in Malawi treason case

Judge Ivy Kamanga of High Court Lilongwe registry who is hearing the treason case involving the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika and the ‘midnight six’ has set Wednesday has asked that she recuse herself from the case.

The specific reasons for the request were that in January 2012, she was a member of a three-judge panel which was sitting over a presidential referral case in which former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, through his then adviser on legal affairs, Allan Ntata, sought interpretation of Section 84 of the Constitution on whether the then vice-president Joyce Banda had constructively resigned by forming her own party, the now ruling People’s Party (PP).

“With that background, I ask counsels whether I can proceed with this matter. During the period under trial now [illness and death of the late Mutharika], my registrar asked me to be on stand-by because some had the intention to move the court on the state of affairs at the time.”

Kamanga also declared her personal relationship with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ephraim Mganda Chiume who is a material witness in one of the charges of giving false information against Peter Mutharika,  Goodall Gondwe and Bright  Msaka.

Further to that, the judge said her children are also friends with children of  defendants Patricia Kaliati and Msaka.

Next week Wednesday has been set as the date Justice Kamanga would hear from the defence whether she
should recuse herself from the case.

Justice Kamanga : Wants to step aside

Commenting on the issue, Director of Public Prosecution Bruno Kalemba said the state has no problem with the judge recusing herself from the case saying she might as well end up to be a witness.

“As the state, we have full confidence in your ability to hear this matter and any other matter that will come in your capacity as a judge. In these circumstances, however, notwithstanding the personal relationships, the state feels that your deliberations in this court are that of the stand-by to sit on the matter.

“It is also in the same vein that we feel that you are a potential witness, it is on this reason alone that the state may wish not to burden you,” he said.

Defence lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale asked the Judge for seven days of which they have to consult before they comment on the Judge’s wish.

“Your honour, knowing that you have given a number of [reasons], it is our wish that we have to consult first. Of course, we might see you as a witness sometime but that is not the basis taking into consideration that currently, we don’t know who the witnesses are since there is no any list before the court, so we need seven days to consult,” he said.

Before Kamanga granted the defence wish, she emphasised that she had already made up her mind to opt out as the trial judge.

The case

Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Patricia Kaliati and Jean Kalirani; former chief secretary to the government Bright Msaka; former deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhumwa and Nicholas Dausi and former deputy chief secretary to the government Necton Mhura appeared on Thursday at the High Court in Lilongwe before Justice Ivy Kamanga.

They are being accused of attempting to overthrow the government in 2012 .

Among others, Mutharika and the other accused are being suspected that they solicited and incited the Malawi Defence Force through General Henry Odillo to take over the lawfully constituted state.

The state is also suspecting that the accused tried to conceal the death of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika to facillitate the take over of the leadership.

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