"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"
Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
BY MIKE CHIPALASA08:12:17 - 09 April 2008Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Chifundo achale Tuesday convicted and sentenced former Minister of Education Sam Mpasu to six years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) for illegally procuring learning materials meant for the 1994 Free Primary Education Programme (FPEP).However, defence lawyer John Mwakhwawa said in a telephone interview that he would appeal against the ruling.“My client says we should appeal and I agree with him absolutely. We are filing an appeal notice tomorrow [Wednesday] at the High Court in Blantyre,” said Mwakhwawa.Prosecution lawyer Matthews Chidzonde said in a telephone interview he was satisfied with the ruling, adding that if the defense would appeal, he would defend it.The trial has taken two-and-half years.Mpasu has been convicted on all three counts that he was charged with, which emanated from his dealings in what the magistrate said “has popularly come to be known as the Fieldyork scandal”.The three counts attracted 2 years each, however, they will run concurrently which means that Mpasu would be in prison for only two years.His charges were contrary to section 95 of the Penal Code.In mitigation, Mwakhwawa told the court his client was a freedom fighter and that the democracy Malawi enjoys has some attributes to him, adding the court should consider this in both conviction and sentence.Mwakhwawa also said Mpasu was a career politician and that his life depended much on the people as such locking him up was suicidal to his career.However, Kachale dismissed this in his ruling, saying the prisoner’s conduct was beyond justification.On the other hand, Chidzonde said Mpasu should have taken notice of Section 12 of the Republican Constitution, which guarantees that public officers should transact their business according to the wishes of the people of Malawi.A deathly silence engulfed the jam-packed courtroom after the magistrate finished reading the ruling.Seven police officers were already in the courtroom accompanied by CID officers who sat in the public gallery, waiting to take Mpasu to prison.Mpasu, who was not handcuffed after the ruling, left the courtroom and looked lost as he searched for his lawyer outside accompanied by police officers. He walked freely to the bench where he briefly sat as he handed over mobile phones to people who had escorted him.Mpasu unilaterally sourced the materials from a British firm, Fieldyork International, during the UDF-led Bakili Muluzi regime spanning 1994-2004, a decade critics say was characterised by stinking corruption.The trial was initially instituted on October 28, 2005 after Mpasu was implicated in commission of inquiry report at Ministry of Education to have corruptly authorised purchase of teaching and learning materials from Fieldyork.According to Kachale, Mpasu, between August and September 1994, at Ministry of Education, being a person employed in the public service as minister was trapped in an arbitrary act of abuse of his office by concluding an arrangement for the supply of exercise books and pencils with Filedyork International, which act was prejudicial to the rights of the government of Malawi.On or about September 14, 1994 at Ministry of Education, Mpasu was found in abuse of the authority of his office when he directed Mr Sam Safuli [principal Secretary] to do an arbitrary act of signing and sending a faxed message from him to Fieldyork International, which again was prejudicial to the government of Malawi.The last charge said on or about August 23, 1994, at Ministry of Education, was also seen to be in abuse of the authority of his office by directing Mr Safuli to do an arbitrary act of issuing a letter of intent to Fieldyork International Limited, which was prejudicial to the government of Malawi as well.Initially, Mpasu was indicted on four counts but during one of the hearings, the state withdrew the fourth count due to lack of evidence.His political ambitions now hang in the balance as he cannot stand for any election from yesterday until seven years lapse, according to the Constitution.He wanted to contest for UDF convention slated for April 24, but pulled out at the eleventh hour, saying he did not want to split the votes for Cassim Chilumpha who is challenging party chairman Bakili Muluzi.However, Mpasu indicated he would contest for a parliament seat in Ntcheu during next year’s general elections.Mpasu’s conviction could be a triumph for President Bingu wa Mutharika’s zero tolerance on corruption the reason he cites for leaving his former party, UDF.He said was full of corrupt barons and would not want to associate with it.However, Mwakhwawa told the court during final submissions on February 15, 2008 that his client was waiting to be vindicated through an acquittal while the prosecution hoped they would obtain a conviction. Mpasu is also facing another case in which he is accused of trespassing into a graveyard, which is a protected area in Machinga. The case is being heard at the Zomba Magistrate’s Cou
Posted by Anti-Muluzi at 8:16 AM