Cashgate prisoner Osward Lutepo on Wednesday testified in in the ongoing case of attempted murder of former Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo at the High Court in Lilongwe that in December 2012 he went with one of the accused Pika Manondo to South Africa to to procure Malawi Defence Force (MDF) equipments which he had a legitimate tender to supply to the military.
Lutepo told the court when testified as a witness of truth in the case in which former Minister of Justice in the PP government, Ralph Kasambara is answering charges of conspiracy to commit murder, his friend Pika Manondo and Macdonald Kumwembe are answering charges of attempted murder of Mphwiyo.
Manondo asked Lutepo to tell the court the deals he had with MDF and of South Africa trip which Lutepo said he indeed went to South Africa in December 2012 by road and was with Pika Manondo.
According to Lutepo he went to South Africa to check on the goods he ordered for MDF as he had tender which he had to deliver .
Manondo asked Lutepo how much the government of Malawi owed him in 2012. H e told the court that the Malawi government owed him over K700 million on goods he supplied during late president Dr Bingu wa Mutharika era and that he only received part payment in 2012 with the help of Mphwiyo.
Lutepo told the court that during Joyce Banda administration, the government of Malawi was owing him K400 million on MDF equipments he supplied to the institution.
According to Lutepo some of the goods he is remembering to have included were meant for Ivory Coast peacekeeping mission.
He also confirmed to the court that if it was not for PP’s deputy director of Political Affairs, Ephraim Chibvunde, who introduced Mphwiyo and then Manondo to Mphwiyo, the payments would have been further delayed
Lutepo who is serving an 11 year sentence after he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government and money laundering K4.2 billion ($5.9 million) in 2013, told the court that he was the first person to know about the Mphwiyo shooting as he got a call from the gun-shot survivor’s wifea bout the attempted murder and that they were rushing to hospital .
“I was the first to know because I got a call from his wife that Paul has been shot , then I called the President informing her about the news the same night, I made several calls including calling Pika (Manondo) informing them about the shooting.
“I then drove to the hospital the same night where I found him and his wife, he was beeing treated by Dr Herthewick Ntaba”, Lutepo told the court when he was responding to Kumwembe question.
Lutepo said he left the country days after Mphwiyo shooting for China to check on goods he ordered and were being manufactured in China meant for his tender at Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and whilst there upon being informed of him being wanted by the police, he talked to the President through his guard commander Mr Mitaye who on the phone assured him of his protection and that he was told to speak to then Minister of Justice and Constitution affairs Fahhad Assani and Director of Public Prosecution ( DPP) Bruno Kalemba who assured him of his safety and VIP treatment upon his return .
He told the court that upon his return, he surrendered himself at Area 30 National Police Headquarters in company of his lawyer Jai Banda who was the choice of Assani and he met then Deputy IG of Police Nelson Bophani.
The cashgate prisoner said it was there where he was told point blank that he must change the version which he explained about his knowledge about cashgate and that he must implicate Kasambara as he was the main target under directives from political leaders and that he will only be in custody for 3 days and be freed as state witness.
Cross examination with Kumwembe:
- 3th September , Mphwiyo shooting and issues surrounding after his shooting
Kumwembe: Did you speak with Mphwiyo on 13th September 2013 ?
Lutepo: Yes we spoke on phone around 2pm in the afternoon and we agreed to meet in the evening
Kumwembe: What was the purpose of the meeting ?
Lutepo: Mphwiyo had told me he wanted to buy a house for his mum, and I happened to get one which was being sold in Chigumula by Mr Elvis Nselebo (owner of Matindi private schools and Matindi television) so I was connecting these two to meet at night at Lilongwe Capital Hotel and when we were there I tried to call him several times he couldn’t pick my phone it was around 8pm and whilst there I met Mr Yeremiah Chihana whom I had some business with and I eft with him to his house. Then I came back and still tried to call he couldn’t pick up the call so we left and I went straight home.
Kumwembe: How did you know of his shooting and when ?
Lutepo: I knew soon after his shooting through his wife who had called me telling me that Paul has been shot and they were rushing with him to hospital. I phoned madam President informing her about the news that Paul has been shot , then I called Pika and some other few people whom I know knew Paul and had direct links with him. Then I drove to the hospital where I found him being treated by Doctor Herthewick Ntaba with his wife there too.
Kumwembe: Did Pika tell you where he was the time you were calling him ?
Lutepo: No I never asked I just informed him of the news, period
Kumwembe: Did you meet with Pika at the hospital ?
Lutepo: Yes he found me at the hospital on the morning of 14th September it was around 9 to 10am
Kumwembe: On the 14th September after the hospital who else did you meet ?
Lutepo: Firstly let me say I was at the hospital trying to help Paul being sent to south Africa and while I was there I got a call from Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda around 12noon directing me to leave the hospital immediately and I should go to State House she will find me there as she was on her way from Lunzu Islamic women rally.
Kumwembe: After he was flown to South Africa did you ever communicate with him ?
Lutepo: Several times yes but at first since he was not in good condition to speak I was communicating with his wife until when he was able to speak and I could speak with him though his wife phone while there .
Kumwembe: When did you leave for China ?
Lutepo: Some weeks after his shooting and when he was in South Africa
Kumwembe: Was there any warrant of arrest against you when you were leaving for China ?
Lutepo: No there was none but I learned of my warrant of arrest whist I was in China
Kumwembe: When did Pika left the county ?
Lutepo: I don’t know but I knew he was travelling abroad for business as well
Kumwembe: While in China did you spoke to Pika ?
Lutepo: Yes we spoke and by then he was in Kenya
Kumwembe: What happened to be arrested when you came back from China ?
Lutepo: I handed over my self to the police at Area 30 National Police Headquarters in company of my lawyer Jai Banda as agreed on the phone by then Minister of Justice and Constitution affairs Fahhad Assani and Director of Public Prosecution Bruno Kalemba while was in China through phone under directives of Dr Joyce Banda
Kumwembe: Upon your handing over yourself what happen there ?
Lutepo: I met then Deputy IG of Police Bophani who asked asked me my knowledge of cashgate and I explained it all the true version of the story about cashgate and the role of Mphwiyo but I was told point blank to twist the story leave the to true version of the story and implicate Mr Ralph Kasambara as he was the main target under the directives from the president . Then I was sent to Zomba Maximum security prison, two days later I received communication from Mr Bophani that Mr Manondo is on his way to see me and that I should convict him him to implicate Kasambara about the Mphwiyo Shooting and my money laundering and cashgate cases
Kumwembe: What was the outcome of your meeting with Pika ?
Lutepo: He refused to change the true version of it and vowed to stand by truth and even die with Kasambara as long as it’s true
Kumwembe: Have you ever dealt with Mr Kasambara ?
Lutepo: Before he was appointed minister of Justice and Constitution affairs he used to be my company lawyer but upon his appointment we never had any dealings even in relation to Cashgate I have never dealt with him
Kumwembe: What about K55 million which you deposited into Ralph and Arnolds law firm ?
Lutepo: It was meant for Pika who was trying to buy a house and he instructed me to deposit to his lawyers for paperwork transactions
Kumwembe: When you were going to Balaka rally, you were using Nissan Pathfinder registration number KU 2, you were being driven by who that time ?
Lutepo:I was in company of Pika and he is the one who was driving me
Kumwembe also asked Lutepo if he knew whether Mphwiyo was close to Joyce Banda and he replied: “I was meant to believe so… on several occasions I had interacted with Dr Joyce Banda she told me she knew Mphwiyo and how she trusted him and they were friends.”
Lutepo further told the court that People’s Party asked him to fund the campaign of former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president John Tembo in his bid to be elected torchbearer in the 2014 elections.
Kumwembe: Do you know anything about MCP convention ?
Lutepo: Yes I was aware of that
Kumwembe: What role did you play towards the convention ?
Lutepo: Somehow yes I was involved as I was briefed by the former president Joyce Banda to organise funds to help one of the candidates to win
Kumwembe: Where was this money from ?
Lutepo: of course from government
Kumwembe: Do you remember the exact figures you paid towards the MCP convention ?
Lutepo: I cannot remember exact figures from the head but it was over K10 million but not more than K15 million cash which were being given to Manondo in instalments upon request and I remember only paying cheque once to Mr Ndovi for printing of some MCP materials
Kumwembe: Have you ever at anytime met any MCP politician ?
Lutepo: No I have never since I never knew any politicians by face so I was told to work with Manondo as his stay at parliament he knew alot of MCP politicians so the money were being given to him for operations
While Kumwembe’s line of questioning did not push Lutepo to name the the MCP politician who benefited the money involved, Director of Public Prosecutions Mary Kachale pushed him to name Tembo during cross-examination.
Mphwiyo was shot outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013, a shooting which is believed to have exposed the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill that came to be known as Cashgate.
- Mr Ndovi mentioned by Lutepo is not Mr Roosevelt Ndovi.