The Judiciary has described as irregular Zomba Magistrate Ben Chitsakamire’s order he made in Zomba cancelling business tycoon Thom Mpinganjira’s warrant of arrest issued in connection with reports that some people wanted to bribe judges hearing the presidential election case.
The order, which Magistrate Chitsakamire issued, is contrary to Section 96 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code which says every warrant shall remain in force until it is executed or until it is canceled by the court which issued it.
In view of this, Registrar of the High Court, Agnes Patemba, Thursday said the court was reviewing the order after noting the irregularities.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) boss, Reyneck Matemba also questioned the order.
“Generally, according to Section 96 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code, if anything, the warrant of arrest was supposed to be cancelled by the court which issued it, not another court so we find that the order was irregular. We will give the file to the High Court judge to review it and if, indeed, irregular the judge will give us a direction,” Patemba said.
She could not give a timeframe when the court would finalise reviewing the order and make directions on the matter.
“We should wait for the direction the court will make, otherwise I cannot discuss what happens next,” Patemba said.
The file was then called from Zomba where the order was made to Blantyre where it was assigned to Justice Nyakaunda Kamanga.
Patemba then said Justice Nyakaunda Kamanga did not finalise reviewing the file as she had equally important matters at hand.
Addresing the press, Matemba described the order which Magistrate Chitsakamire made as questionable and unfortunate.
“The judiciary needs to do a thorough soul-searching. We can have a questionable Executive and Parliament because those are politicians but we cannot have a judiciary which the public questions,” he said.
Last week, Matemba said the bureau was pursuing reports that an officer from the private and public sectors were among those who wanted to bribe the judges.
This prompted Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to hold demonstrations last Thursday to push ACB to reveal the names of the suspects, while Malawi Law Society called for speedy investigations and arrests.
In a statement Thursday, HRDC also condemned the order cancelling Mpinganjira’s warrant of arrest.
“If justice is not seen on this case, HRDC will be mobilising Malawians to have a mother of all demonstrations in Malawi,” the coalition says.
Mpinganjira was arrested on Wednesday on allegations that he was linked to reports that some people wanted to bribe five judges hearing the presidential election case.
Following the order, Mpinganjira was released at around midnight on Wednesday from Blantyre Police Station where he was being held.
Reports indicate that ACB and Mpinganjira’s lawyer were negotiating to have Mpinganjira sign a consent order which will necessitate him to be charged today.
The arrest of Mpinganjira is in connection to the judges presiding over the election case.
Justices Healy Potani, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo are hearing the elections case in which UTM and MCP presidents Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera are challenging May 21 polls results citing irregularities.
The judges concluded hearing the case on December 20 and pledged to deliver a ruling within 45 days which end on February 3.