By Eric Msikiti:
High Court Judge Zione Ntaba has recused herself from the ongoing Macdonald Masambuka murder case, almost six months after trial commenced in August 2018.
A statement released on Friday made the announcement barely a day after one of the accused Alfred Yohane implicated some top government officials in the murder of 22-year-old Masambuka in March last year.
Yohane, 26, is one of the initial 22 accused persons who are being accused of murdering Masambuka, a man with albinism, at his home village at Manja in Traditional Authority Chikweo in Machinga.
The State had the charges of the 10 other accused person’s dropped and their trial discontinued under sections 77 and 303 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
In a statement announcing her recusal from the case, Justice Ntaba notes the continued reference of Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, a top Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) official, by the defence.
Ntaba notes that Dr Ntaba’s name was raised when the Legal Aid Bureau, which is representing the accused in the matter, questioned an Inspector Zimba on the matter in October 2018.
The name also came up during Dr Charles Dzamalala’s testimony in November last year.
“For purposes of making it clear why this court is continuously highlighting Dr Hetherwick Ntaba is because he is my paternal uncle. He is my deceased father’s brother and judicial ethics requires that where there is potential conflict of interest due to familial ties, the court takes steps to address those issues including recusing oneself from handling the matter,” Ntaba writes.
She also expressed concern over media reports on her ruling that stopped the media from mentioning the names of the “top government officials” as per Yohane’s testimony in court.
Ntaba clarified on the matter saying it was not meant to gag the media.
“This court did not put a gag order on the press in terms of reporting any other names apart from the evidence which was removed, the courts appreciate when the press takes opportunity to verify issues in proceedings through a reading of the courts’ files,” Ntaba says.
The Masambuka murder case took a new twist on Thursday when one of the accused implicated a top government official.
The suspect, Yohane, who is answering five counts in the case, told the court that the top official directed him and two others, a Catholic Priest, Father Thomas Muhosha, and a police officer, Chikondi Chileka, to find bones of a person with albinism.
However, State lead counsel Steven Kayuni immediately raised an objection stopping the suspect from continuing with his testimony arguing that what he was talking about was not inclusive in the defence’s written testimony.
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