Civil society activists and Malawians on social media on Tuesday called for sentencing guidelines on the cases in the infamous cashgate scandal, which led to the suspension of foreign aid to the country following three year and nine month jail term slapped to former senior official.
High Court in Lilongwe slapped a Treza Namathanga Senzani, a former principal secretary in the Tourism Ministry, with a three-year-and-nine-month jail term, the first such sentence in the infamous cashgate scandal.
Deputy Director of Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau Reyneck Matemba said Tuesday’s sentence will send out a strong message to all those involved in the scandal.
“In our submission to the court, we asked that the offender should serve a sentence, we realize that she had cooperated with the courts by returning the money and also pleading guilty, all these are very welcome but we are looking at the gravity of the case and the consequences the country is going through as a result of her theft,” said Matemba.
Senzani had pleaded guilty to the charges and gave back to the government her house estimated at about $157,000 and refunded the difference in cash.
ACB deputy director said there was an indication that more suspects could come forward to plead guilty, following the example set by Senzani.
But the Civil Society Grand Coalition (CSGC) has described three-year custodial sentence as “inadequate” and will not deter would be offenders.
“People out there are suffering because of cashgate and to hear that Senzani will be in jail for three years is just unfair to the multitude,” said Lucky Mbewe, Coalition’s spokesperson.
Mbewe also wondered why the courts give longer sentences to small cases as compared to bigger cases.
“If someone steals a chicken he or she can be sentenced up to five years but when it comes to money laundering crimes such as the infamous cashgate you will find the same courts giving a three year sentence,” he said.
Malawians on social websites and also comments flooded on Nyasa Times article about the sentence drew rebukes of the Tuesday’s sentence, with many believe that the convict deserved life jail term for the charges.
In Malawi, theft and money laundry charges carry a maximum of five and ten years respectively.
Some 60 cashgate cases are in the courts, and this week Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu indicated in parliament that more people involved in the plunder will be arrested include some “masters and kingpins”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :