Strong legal team assembled for Chizuma ahead of her defamation case filed by corruption suspect Ashok

The country’s most respected legal mind Mordecai Msisha, SC (left)

* Mordecai Msisha SC joins the legal mind alongside Kaukonde Lawyers, Likongwe & Company and Lloyds & Associates

* Chizuma is being sued in her personal capacity over the audio which was not leaked by herself

* But the person she was having conversation with in regards to corruption investigations

* That sorrounds Zunneth Sattar and other prominent business associates

By Duncan Mlanjira

Senior Counsel Mordecai Msisha of Nyirenda & Msisha Law Offices — together with Pempho Likongwe of Likongwe & Company and Innocencia Ottober of Lloyds & Associates — form the strong legal team that has joined Kaukonde Lawyers in defence of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma, in which she is being sued for defamation by corruption suspect Ashok Kumar Streedharan.

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Msisha was the lead lawyer in the 2019 Constitutional Court case that led to the nullification of the 2019 presidential election and culminated into fresh election that gifted President Lazarus Chakwera the presidency.

The corruption suspect Ashok is suing Chizuma for alleged defamation in relation to the leaked audio clip that went viral on social media early this year in which Chizuma alleged that there was an element of corruption when Ashok was released from custody on bail.

Ashok, who was arrested alongside former Minister of Lands, Kezzie Msukwa, over corruption charges in relation to some land issues in Lilongwe, were both released on bail after they sought court intervention.

Ashok, the corruption suspect

Chizuma is being sued in her personal capacity over the audio which was not leaked by herself but the person she was having conversation with in regards to corruption investigations that sorrounds Zunneth Sattar and other prominent business associates.

A summons from Lilongwe District Registry of the High Court Civil Case No. 62 of 2022 in February indicated that Ashok is demanding damages from Chizuma allegedly for putting his “name in bad light” in the leaked audio which he argues that “he found demeaning to his character”.

Represented by Gobz & Rechtswissenschaft of P.O. Box 31244, Blantyre 3 (3rd Floor of Delamere House), Ashok argues that “by the said words in their natural and ordinary meaning the defendant meant and was understood to mean that the claimant is an extremely corrupt person; that the claimant corrupted a Judge to have him released from custody”.

Ashok goes further to gain sympathy from the justice system by adding to the charges that Chizuma’s statement in the audio puts Ashok as being “so corrupt that the whole justice will not help” and that Ashok “is a criminal who has committed an offence punishable with imprisonment”.

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The ACB is investigating Sattar, Ashok and their associates in collaboration with Britain’s National Crimes Agency — UK’s anti-corruption authorities — in relation to some deals with the government of Malawi.

In October last year the British National Crimes Agency, alongside ACB, arrested Sattar together with several associates in the United Kingdom and Malawi.

Msukwa was implicated in that he was “reasonably suspected of having committed three counts of corrupt use of official powers contrary to section 25 (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act as read together with section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act”.

Particulars of the offense are that between July and August 2021, in Lilongwe, Msukwa facilitated the sale of a land under his jurisdiction as Minister of Lands & Urban Development in Area 46 plot number 46/2057 to Sattar.

Former Minister Kezzie Msukwa

Sattar then bribed the Minister with K4 million and a Mercedes Benz C Class for the advantage of Msukwa’s associate Moses Kafunda.

Msukwa was also bribed K15 million through Sattar’s agent Ashok to buy land in Chipoka, Salima and Ashok was also charged of facilitating a K4 million bribe on behalf of Sattar for Msukwa to facilitate payment of duty at Malawi Revenue Aithority for the Mercedes Benz C Class bought for Msukwa for the benefit of Moses Kafunda.

Msukwa was since dismissed as Cabinet Minister by President Lazarus Chakwera paving way for the investigation but while the public expected the President to do the same on Chizuma — for breaching her Oath of Office following her serious misconduct of leaking inside information — he announced she was being retained.

His decision to maintain Chizuma was applauded by the public as well as the international partners as Chakwera had said he decided to keep her because she is “a person of great courage” in the fight against corruption.

ACB Director Martha Chizuma

Meanwhile, the case on the leaked audio took a twisted turn on April 7 when Mzuzu Court Senior Resident Magistrate, Godfrey Gondwe ordered that within 90 days, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions must furnish the Court a report into the leaked audio which is alleged to have violated the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) by revealing to a third party information on a case the bureau was investigating.

Following the order, the MPS issued a public notice on Thursday that it had summoned Chizuma for an interview session as ordered by Mzuzu Senior Magistrate Court following an application by Frighton Mphompho.

But 24 hours later, the MPS canceled the interview session after reports that “some citizens are mobilizing to demonstrate against police for complying with the court order to interview [Chizuma] as a person of interest in a matter about which the court needs to establish facts”.

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A statement from national police deputy public relations officer, Inspector Harry Namwaza, said the MPS was ordered by Mzuzu Senior Magistrate Court on April 7, 2022 following an application by Frighton Mphompho.

But 24 hours later, the police issued another statement, suspending the interview, saying it will hold a press conference at National Police Headquarters on Monday, April 25 at 10am “to attend to all public questions or concerns regarding the court case and ally any fears generated by its misrepresentation and politicization in the media”.

“In the meantime, to create room for the building of public trust in the processes, the MPS follows — in compliance with court orders — the summon to interview Ms. Chizuma is suspended until further notice.”

The MPS also explained that while it is the sacred right for every citizen to demonstrate as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, so is the MPS “bound by law and committed to comply with court orders”.

“Notwithstanding, the MPS recognizes its responsibility to ensure that it conducts its operations and carries out its Constitutional mandate in a transparent manner so that the public is protected from misinformation about its actions or motivations.”

Meanwhile, the United Democratic Front (UDF) has distanced itself from Mphompho’s action and has since suspended the party’s District Governor for Chikwawa as regards to the court case against Chizuma that is connected to a leaked audio she had with an unnamed individual in which the director general divulged information contrary to her oath of secrecy

Through the UDF acting publicity secretary, Yusuf Mwawa issued on Wednesday, the party says it “learnt with surprise from socia media outlets” that Mphompho “is implicated in issues surrounding a court case at the Mzuzu Magistrate Court” against Chizuma.

“The UDF is dismayed with his alleged involvement in this case as his alleged actions are serious and that bring the party into disrepute by virtue of his position as UDF district governor.

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“Mr Mphompho is alleged to have acted in his personal capacity and his alleged actions do not represent the views of the party in this matter,” however the “UDF supports the fight against corruption and the party was instrumental in the establishment of key governance and accountability such as the ACB over two decades ago.

“The party is also on record as having supported the appointment of Ms. Martha Chizuma as Director of the ACB” as well as publicly calling for all stakeholders to support her “in the ongoing efforts by certain quarters to compromise the ACB in an attempt to obstruct the course of justice.”

In view of the “alleged serious misconduct” by Mphompho, the UDF says it has suspended him “from his position as district governor with immediate effect [and he] will be accorded the right to be heard before the party disciplinary committee”.

Reports indicate that Mphompho acted on behalf comedian-turned political activist, Bon Kalindo — who issued a seven-day ultimatum to President Lazarus Chakwera to fire Chizuma, failing which he threatened nationwide demonstrations.

As soon as the Mzuzu Magistrate Court granted Mphompho’s petition a hearing, Kalindo said people must not twist the issue by indicating Chizuma is being targeted but said there is need to look at the integrity of the holder of that office.

Kalindo at the centre of it