By Jameson Chauluka, Samuel Kalimira & Mandy Pondani:
Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate, Simeon Mdeza, Wednesday released on bail business mogul Thomson Mpinganjira who was arrested on allegations that he attempted to bribe judges hearing the presidential election case at the Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which obtained a warrant of arrest for Mpinganjira at Lilongwe Resident Magistrate Court last week, did not challenge the bail application.
“Although the ACB did not object to the bail, it is upon the court to decide if it is in the best interest of justice that the suspect be released on bail looking at the gravity of the charges. It is in my considered view that counsel for the defendant [Patrice Nkhono] has satisfied his claim that the defendant will present himself for trial and I release him on bail,” Mdeza said.
Among other pre-conditions, the court ordered Mpinganjira to pay K1 million cash bond and be tied to a non-cash bond of K5 million.
He also ordered Mpinganjira to surrender travel documents to the courts, and that he appears before any ACB formation once every fortnight on Mondays.
The court also ordered Mpinganjira to produce two reliable sureties tied to a non-cash bond of K3 million and that he should not interfere with ACB’s witnesses.
Mpinganjira has since been charged with three counts in relation to the judge bribery case.
Firstly, Mpinganjira, who hails from Dzungu Village, Traditional Authority Bvumbwe, Thyolo District, has been charged with allegedly offering an advantage to a public officer.
Reading the charges, Mdeza said Mpinganjira offered K100 million to Justice Mike Tembo for his benefit and benefit of Justices Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu, Healey Potani and Dingiswayo Madise as an inducement to decide the elections case in favour of the respondents (Malawi Electoral Commission [Mec] and President Peter Mutharika).
In the alternative, Mpinganjira has been charged with an attempt to induce Justices Tembo and Potani to exercise their function corruptly, to accept K100 million for the same purpose.
Lastly, Mpinganjira has been charged with attempting to induce a public officer to abuse his office saying he attempted to induce Justices Tembo and Potani to abuse their offices to accept K100 million and rule the election case in favour of the respondents.
Mpinganjira was granted bail a day after he was re-arrested after High Court Judge Justice Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga had quashed a court order which Zomba Principal Resident Magistrate, Ben Chitsakamire, issued challenging Mpinganjira’s arrest last week on Wednesday.
Before obtaining the warrant of arrest for Mpinganjira, ACB Director, Reyneck Matemba, told the press that they were investigating two individuals from the public and private sectors after Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda had, on behalf of the judges who are handling the case, complained to the graft- busting body over the attempts to bribe them.
“The letter did not mention any political party and did not complain about any politician,” Matemba told the press in Lilongwe on January 14 2020.
“You may wish to know that the complaints that the ACB received are not against any political party or any of the parties to the presidential election case, but against specific individuals.”
On January 25, lawyers for Mutharika issued a press release saying their client “wishes to place on record that he is completely dismayed by the said alleged efforts at bribing the honourable judges.”
The judges are expected to deliver a ruling on the case following a petition by Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM leader Saulos Chilima challenging Mec’s decision to declare Mutharika the winner of the presidential election saying the election results were marred by irregularities.
Meanwhile, Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, who is also the government spokesperson, Mark Botomani, has said Monday is a normal working day, adding Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Malawi Police Service (MPS) have promised total security to the citizens.
“We have been assured by MDF and MPS that people and property will be secured. No need to be indoors as business will be normal,” Botomani said.
In a statement, Acting Inspector General of Police, Duncan Mwapasa, who recently announced suspension of private duties by all police officers, has assured that MPS has put in place measures to control any acts of violence before, during and after the judgement.
“The Malawi Police Service urges all Malawians to exercise restraint and to remain peaceful, before, during and after delivery of the judgement… everyone must desist from provocative acts such as intimidation, harassment and violence that may lead to public disorder,” the statement reads.