JB challenges Kasambara: Ready to testify in court

Malawi President Joyce Banda has said she is ready to comply with a call for her to stand as a witness in court in relation to the shooting of former budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

Former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara, charged with attempt murder of Mphwiyo, told Lilongwe Magistrate Court that he would want President Banda to testify in court as witness in the matter.

Kasambara, one of the country’s prominent lawyers and a senior counsel (SC), submitted to court that he would want in the witness dock President Banda, a State House official Cecilia Kumpukwe (a sister to President Banda), Minister of Information Brown Mpinganjira, ruling People’s Party spokesman Hophmally Makande and Prophet Elias of Machinjiri.

President Banda said she is not afraid with those dragging her into the cash gate scandal, saying without referring or mentioning Kasambara: “Yes you dragged me into the matter but you will end up rotten in jail because you committed a crime.”

Rest we forget! The President and the First Gentleman interact with Kasambara and his children in Nkhata Bay before they fell apart
Lest we forget! The President and the First Gentleman interact with Kasambara and his children in Nkhata Bay before they fell apart

Banda was speaking at the Nation Day of Prayers on Friday which she turned the function into a mini-political rally where she drummed up support for her 2014 presidential ambitions.

The prayers, which were organised by Malawi Council of Churches, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Evangelical Association of Malawi and Muslim Association of Malawi, were held at Comesa Hall in Blantyre under the theme ‘God heal our land’.

President Banda, who faces general elections in May this year, also admitted that the cash gate scandal could be a massive setback as tripartite elections are nearing.

“This fight is not only for Joyce Banda; this fight also belongs to Lazarus Chakwera, Atupele Muluzi and even church leaders. We need to join hands to ensure that corruption and theft of government resources is stopped,” said Banda.

In separate interviews with Nyasa Times, law-experts and analysts Justin Dzonzi and John Gift Mwakhwawa said President Banda enjoys no protection from being drawn to court as a witness.

President Banda might become a witness depending on the prominence of her testimony.

“I think for her to stand in court it will depend on how critical her testimony in the case is. If it is not all that important or is of no significance to the case, she might choose not to testify,” added Dzonzi.

And Mwakhwawa said President Banda would be considered as a witness to Kasambara’s case following her public remarks in which she alleged to have knowledge of those who were responsible for the shooting of Mphwiyo.

Mwakhwawa said: “The President can be called to court or subpoenaed as a witness to a case in any court, she is not protected by any law from not doing so. And if we are to talk of current case of Mr. Kasambara, she is a prime witness”.

He said President Banda’s public comments about those who shot Mphwiyo indicates that she have knowledge and information important to the case.

“If she could make such statement to the public, then she can as well be drawn to make it under oath,” he added.

Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Mandala Mambulasa also  said the fact that the Office of the President enjoys immunity from prosecution does not prevent the office bearer from testifying in court.

Section 91 (1) of the Constitution says a President may not be sued in any civil proceedings but he/she shall not be immune to orders of the courts concerning rights and duties.

And Section 91 (2) says: “No person holding the office of President shall be charged with any criminal offence in any court during his [or her] term of office, except where he or she has been charged with an offence on impeachment.”

Analysts  noted that there is already a precedent when  Bakilli Muluzi while serving as the President of Malawi,  became the first leader in his country’s history to testify before a court of law in 2003.

He appeared before the Lilongwe Magistrate Courts as state witness in a case involving the then main opposition Malawi Congress Party president Gwanda Chakuamba  and his personal secretary Grace Mhango who were  charged with forging the president’s signature.

The presidential testimony, which took more than three hours, was intensive with tempers sometimes frayed.

Muluzi told journalists  that time that as citizen number one, he came to court to show that he respects the rule of law.

With reference to the grilling he had received, Muluzi jokingly said: “As lawyers do, they had a field day today but I enjoyed it.”

President Banda has said the shooting of the budget director was linked to his efforts to fight corruption.

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