The ruling People’s Party (PP) deputy administrative secretary, Joseph Chikwemba on Wednesday took to the witness box and testified against Malawi Voice online editor, Justice Mponda, revealing their friendship and the money deal that led to the journalist’s arrest.
Chikwemba was second but last witness to testify against Mponda currently answering extortion charges, under which he is accused of allegedly demanding from the young politician K500, 000 I norder not to publish several stories linking him (Chikwemba) and his political associates to massive theft of public funds.
In his testimony, Chikwemba revealed his friendship with the online journalist and how he intermediated a deal in which President Joyce Banda’s son Geoffrey Kachale had agreed to pay Mponda K500,000 for two stories that were removed from the Malawi Voice website that deemed malicious and were damaging Banda’s family reputation.
“I called Justice, as a friend, on behalf of Geoff to remove an article published on Malawi Voice website because it was damaging. He promised he would do it but indicated couldn’t do it for free. I told him I was just a mediator,” explained Chikwemba.
He added: “Before we could meet, another article came out attacking President Joyce Banda, her sister Mrs. (Cecilia) Kumpukwe and almost the whole family. Geoff pleaded with me to ask Justice for a favour to remove it. He said couldn’t do it for free like the first time, but promised to remove it”.
Chikwemba soon to be First Secretary for Investments at the country’s Embassy in Japan revealed Mponda asked for K250,000 for each story removed as a ‘thank you’ which Geoff had agreed to pay before involving the police.
Chikwemba explained: “Geoff gave me the money that’s when I arranged to meet Mponda to pay him off. But before I set-off to meet Mponda, Geoff suggested seeking legal opinion on the issue, and that is when he was advised to report to police because it was a criminal matter”.
However, Chikwemba dismissed Mponda’s lawyer, Chancy Gondwe’s suggestions that he, together with Geoff, set a trap against him when they reported the matter to police, arguing “it was not a trap at all, whatever interaction I made with Justice was based on our friendship and Geoff was ready to pay him the money before he involved the police”.
It was noted through Chikwemba’s testimony that there were no threats or pressure during his interaction and negotiation with Mponda over an agreement to pay him the money.
There was little tension in court especially when lawyer Gondwe objected to a call log and printed Facebook messages Chikwemba exchanged with Mponda, which prosecution counsels, Chimwemwe Kalua and Jailos Chafunsa had tendered in as evidence.
The tension heated up when Chikwemba at first feigned ignorance of SMSs he sent just advising him on how to demand money from Geoff, before he accepted sending them after Gondwe had read the messages in court.
In one of the SMSs, Chikwemba advised Mponda to be a gentleman and state his price for removing from Malawi Voice articles against President Banda’s family and son Geoff.
Chikwemba went on to advise Mponda to opt for ‘a sort of contract’ with President Banda’s family’s to establish his own online website where he could be writing positive stories for the Head of State’s family, which was ready to bankroll the project.
Chikwemba’s testimony came weeks after Blantyre police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer, Sergeant Chikalipo revealed in his testimony that the money involved in the case was initially Chikwemba’s reward to Mponda for ‘a certain job’ he had for him.
Senior Resident Magistrate, Viva Nyimba has since adjourned the case to February 18th when he is expected to deliver his ruling on whether Mponda has a case to answer or not.
Mponda, on October 29th and November 1, 2013, is reported to have allegedly threatened Chikwemba to pay K500, 000 or will write publish several stories linking him (Chikwemba) and his political associates to massive theft of public funds.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :