By Duncan Mlanjira
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director Reyneck Matemba has asked the judiciary to do some soul searching amongst themselves on rulings that some of its members have issued in the past in relation to the case in which Zomba Magistrate Court had judged that the warrant of arrest issued for businessman and banker, Thomson Mpinganjira done on January 21 by the Magistrate Court sitting in Lilongwe be canceled forthwith and also orders for his immediate release from custody.
Matemba told the Zodiak Broadcasting Station on Thursday that he finds it sad and disgusting that someone travelled all the way from Blantyre to Zomba at night and convinced the Magistrate, now revealed as Benny Chitsakamire, to convene a court sitting to cancel the warrant of arrest and also to order for Mpinganjira’s immediate release from custody.
The judgement made on Wednesday night hours after Mpinganjira’s arrest by the ACB, cites sections 18 and 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and section 96 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code in support of the application filed in by Mpinganjira’s lawyer Frank Mbeta.
“…Consequently and order be and is hereby issued directing the State (including but not limited to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Officer in Charge of Blantyre Police Station) to forthwith release the applicant, Dr. Thomson Frank Mpinganjira from custody.
“Any further prosecutorial steps of the Applicant by the Anti-Corruption Bureau be and shall be taken by way of Summons under Section 84 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code,” orders the Zomba Magistrate Court.
The ACB obtained the arrest warrant on Mpinganjira, owner Group Chief Executive Officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited, over allegations that he tried to bribe the Constitutional Court judges who were hearing a legal challenge to the May 21 elections that re-elected President Arthur Peter Mutharika.
In a statement, the ACB said it received a complaint on 8th December, 2019 alleging that some people were attempting to bribe the five judges and the ACB instituted investigations into the matter.
After his arrest on Wednesday, 22nd January, 2020, was supposed to be taken to court on Thursday, January 23 after the ACB had recorded a statement from him.
Matemba says he finds this unfortunate because the country can not afford to have a Judiciary that is questionable.
He said this was not the first time that the ACB has had challenges with the judiciary, some time back a High Court Judge, whom he did not mention, stopped them from investigating a case.
“And yet we have a whole High Court Judge stopping us from investing and prosecuting a person, what is that?” questions Matemba.
“…I am not attacking the judiciary, no. [but] there is a Law under Section 10 of the Corrupt Practices Act that clearly says our mandate is to investigate cases and if we have evidence to prosecute.
“These are some of the challenges we face but we don’t talk about them but this time around I will talk about them because this is sad and disgusting.”
Matemba said the idea of an arrest warrant is not to punish somebody but to sure that if a person is released on bail they should be able to have conditions attached to the bail.
“Issues like the availability of the person for trial becomes very vital. We should make sure the person is available not only for reporting for bail but to avail themselves for trial.
“We should be able to know where they are going at any particular point in time.”
He said he receives the report of the release of Mpinganjira through a call that came at 12:05am and later was sent a copy of the order through WhatsApp.
That’s when he noticed that the order was made in Zomba and at night, which astounded him very much.
Meanwhile, reports are that the ACB has applied to the High Court to set aside the order from the magistrate from Zomba.
An analyst commenting on social media says it is strange that a Magistrate Court can overrule another Magistrate Court’s action, saying it could only have perhaps been done by the High Court.