Kabwila’s criminal trial grind to a halt over Covid-19 scare

Measures to contain a possible outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in Malawi made Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate (SRM), Shireen Chirwa, to cancel hearing of a case in which rights activist and politician Jessie Kabwila is answering two charges levelled against her by the state.

Jessie Kabwila with UTM Party supporters
Jessie Kabwila addressed sympathisers at the court,

The former parliamentarian for Salima North West constituency was due to appear before the court on Thursday morning.

In Criminal Case number 7 of 2020, Kabwila is accused of proposing violence at an assembly, contrary to Section 78(1)(a) of the Penal Code and uttering words to the prejudice of judicial proceedings, contrary to Section 113 (1)(d) of the Penal code.

Kabwila was arrested in January ahead of a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling which annulled presidential election and ordered a fresh election which will be held on 2 July this year.

She reportedly warned during a demonstration led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition that she would deal with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and the ConCourt judges if their judgment in the presidential election petition case had favoured the ruling party.

However, she pleaded not guilty to the charges when she first appeared before the court a few days after her arrest.

Confirming the cancellation of Kabwila’s case hearing, her lawyer Khwima Mchizi said he would just be waiting for the court to provide any new date because he is ready to defend his client.

“The court has deemed it fit to concentrate on criminal matters of people in custody as opposed to cases of people such as Kabwila who are on bail.

“The decision has been made in order to decongest cells amidst the threat of a possible out break of the coronavirus in the country,” said Mchizi.

Senior Resident Magistrate Chirwa is reportedly having a lot of such criminal cases to handle on her desk.

According to Mchizi, the state was supposed to start parading witnesses on Thursday morning while he was required to begin cross-examining those witnesses.

Kabwila stormed the court premises with scores of her sympathisers that included her own parents, children and UTM Party supporters clad in their party’s colours.

She later took her sympathisers away from the court premises and addressed them on what she described as “party matters”.

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