The High Court sitting in Zomba has ordered that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision not to discontinue the case of some of the 12 people who are suspected to have had a role in the murder of Macdonald Masambuka be subjected to a judicial review.
Twenty-two-year-old Masambuka, a man with albinism from Machinga District, died under mysterious circumstances, prompting Malawi Police Service agents to round up people they suspected of having a hand in Masambuka’s death.
However, judgement has been long coming in the case, almost two years after the High Court finished hearing it.
Two of the accused people, namely Lumbani Kamanga and Lackness Magombo, applied for judicial review through their lawyer, Timothy Chirwa.
The two argue that the trial court’s failure to deliver judgement in the case is a violation of their right to personal liberty, among others.
“A declaration that the omission or failure of the DPP to discontinue the criminal proceedings against the applicants in homicide case number 69 of 2019, High Court Principal Registry, violates the applicants’ right to personal liberty, not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and to be tried within reasonable time under, respectively, sections 18, 19 and 42(2) (f) (i) of the Constitution,” the application, dated March 29 2022, reads.
On Thursday, Judge Mzondi Mvula ordered commencement of judicial review proceedings and that hearing of proceedings should be expedited.
The court also directed that the defendants should, within 14 days of receiving the application, file their defence supported by a sworn affidavit, adding that the court will set a date for a rescheduling conference not later than 28 days from the date of filing defence.
On Sunday, Legal Aid Bureau (Lab) Director Masauko Chamkakala, whose organisation was representing nine of the 12 suspects, told The Daily Times that the ruling by Mvula was a welcome development.
“It is a very welcome development. We did apply last year for bail pending judgement but our application has never been attended to. This new ruling is a welcome development for our clients who have been in suspense for too long,” he said.
In September last year, Lab filed an application in the High Court seeking bail for the suspects.
However, Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni has said they will respond to the application.
“We shall duly respond to the application made. Suffice to say that the State and defence closed their cases,” he said.
The Masambuka case took a new twist on May 9 2019 when suspect, Alfred Yohane implicated some of the top officials associated with the previous administration during trial.
Judge Zione Ntaba, who earlier handled the case, recused herself in the matter after Yohane implicated some top officials.
The body of Masambuka, who came from Nkoola Village, Paramount Chief Kawinga, in Machinga District, was found buried in a maize field behind a graveyard at Chikwewo in the district.
Roman Catholic priest Father Thomas Muhosha, police officer Chikondi Chileka and Machinga District Hospital clinical officer Lumbani Kamanga were arrested in connection with Masambuka’s death.