Malawian businessman Misozi Chanthunya, who fled to South Africa after his girlfriend was found brutally murdered, has launched yet another court action in his six-year campaign to block extradition to his native country.
And the South African justice ministry said that if this fails, a further appeal is possible.
It has been established that in October last year Chanthunya filed papers in the South Gauteng High Court challenging an order by South Africa’s justice minister, Michael Masutha, that he be surrendered to Malawi.
This was Chanthunya’s third application to the South African courts aimed at preventing extradition.
He bases his argument on the fact that while South Africa has abolished the death penalty, he potentially faces the noose if repatriated to face the murder charges.
It is unclear how Chanthunya has been able to pay lawyers’ fees in three court actions.
He is described on LinkedIn as the chief executive of CLC Forex, based in the Johannesburg area. No record of the company could be found on the database of South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Property Commission. He is currently held at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Pretoria.
At issue is the August 2010 murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Linda Gasa, who was poisoned and then stabbed repeatedly.
Gasa was last seen in Chanthunya’s company, according to the 2012 judgment in his extradition case. Customs and immigration officials found her buried under the freshly cemented floor of Chanthunya’s cottage in Monkey Bay in Mangochi.
Within days of the grisly discovery he fled to South Africa but was tracked down by Interpol in January 2012.
After the government applied for his extradition in 2012, he was found to be extraditable by the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court.
Chanthunya immediately challenged the ruling in the North West High Court, arguing that although no one has been judicially executed in Malawi since the country gained its independence in 1964, capital punishment has never been abolished.
South African law prohibits the extradition of murder suspects to countries that apply capital punishment, unless their governments give an undertaking that it will not be applied.
Chanthunya argued that the assurance given by former president Bingu wa Mutharika, that he (Chanthunya) would not be executed was no longer valid because a new president, Joyce Banda, was in office.
Spokespersn for Malawi’s Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Apoche Itimu said that, “on the issue of assurance, our response hasn’t changed”.
In September 2014, Masutha signed an order requiring Chanthunya’s surrender to the Malawian authorities under section 11 of the Extradition Act. He responded by requesting reasons and the record of the Minister’s decision, which Masutha provided.
He has now launched a formal application to overturn Masutha’s order. “The Minister filed an affidavit and the matter must now be placed in the South Gauteng High Court for trial. We await a trial date,” said justice ministry spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.
Mhaga said that whatever the outcome of his latest court action, it was still open to Chanthunya to appeal against the High Court’s decision.
Efforts to speak to Chanthunya’s lawyer proved futile as they could not pick our phone calls nor respond to our questionnaire.
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