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Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Muluzi, Aleke named in Fieldyork scandal


08:11:21 - 10 April 2008

president Bakili Muluzi and his then Finance minister Aleke Banda have
been named in the “chain of the lot” that abused their respective
offices during the infamous 1994 Fieldyork notebook scandal.

Their alleged crimes in the chain, however, would not come for trial
unless more information was available for them to face the law in the
same way former Education minister Sam Mpasu, who was part of the
chain, did.

This is according to Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Chifundo
Kachale’s ruling on Mpasu’s involvement in the matter in which he gave
him two years IHL for each of the three counts he was answering.

Muluzi was first Malawian mutliparty president who ruled between 1994
and 2004, a decade his critics said haboured corrupt individuals.

On the other hand, Aleke was first Finance minister in Muluzi’s cabinet
in 1994 but is now president of opposition Peoples Progressive Movement

As finance minister, Aleke by law was authorised to sign tenders, like the Fieldyork, on behalf of the government.

The scandal, which culminated into a two-and-half year trial, saw
Mpasu, who is executive member of Muluzi’s opposition UDF, convicted
and slapped with the three two-year sentences that would run

Between 1994 and 2004, Mpasu served as Speaker of Parliament, minister
of Trade and Private Sector Development, minister of Information and
Broadcasting, minister of Health, UDF secretary general and spokesman
before he was kicked out for saying Muluzi, did not stand a chance to
win the 2009 presidential contest.

Kachale said in his sentence that Muluzi and Aleke are part of the
chain Mpasu was connected to when an illegal procurement of teaching
and learning materials meant for Free Primary Education Programme was

The magistrate warned that no matter how long it would take to
prosecute the two, one day the “ghosts” will haunt them and the law
will finally catch up with them just as it had done with Mpasu.

Kachale said the conduct of Muluzi at the time, as state president,
breeds suspicion that he might have been reckless during the illegal
purchase of the materials.

“The court wants to acknowledge that in queer sense, the prisoner
[Mpasu] is correct that he is part of a chain. As the court has already
observed, the conduct of the state president, Mr. Bakili Muluzi, in
this whole matter raises serious eyebrows about the extent of the rot,”
said Kachale in his eight-page ruling.

On the contention by the defence that Aleke might have been complicit,
Kachale said the court agreed with this observation, adding that there
was indeed more to the matter than what met the legal eye.

“However, it seems that the accused person [Mpasu] has assumed the
position of the proverbial lamb, suffering for the crimes of the rest.
In that sense, unless there was more information forthcoming, the court
must punish Mr. Mpasu for the crimes for which he has been found
guilty,” said Kachale.

He added: “As for the rest of the people in the chain, one day they
might face their ghosts too; just like Mr. Mpasu is doing today after
more than ten years.”

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Wezzie Kayira, whose office
indicted Mpasu when Ishamel Wadi was DPP in 2005, could not be reached
Wednesday on his mobile phone to comment on Kachale’s observation on
Muluzi and Aleke.

However, Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga
said Wednesday that Kachale was entitled to his opinion but as a
ministry it was unfair to comment on his judgement.

“It’s not fair to comment at this stage as a ministry. In any case, the
trial was not about [Bakili] Muluzi or [Aleke] Banda, it was for Mpasu.
But if the DPP wants to proceed with the matter, he will be entitled to
that. But I think even the DPP would want to read the judgement first
in great detail before acting,” said Kamanga in a telephone interview.

Ironically, Aleke, as minister of finance at the time, was one of the
state witnesses in the case and categorically denied being part of the
scam after Mpasu bypassed him during the illegal procurement process.

Mpasu in his defence during the trial implicated Aleke in the matter but the former finance minister denied any involvement.

If the state goes ahead to try the two in the scandal, Muluzi would be
adding up to numerous other legal battles awaiting him before the court.

He is currently in court after an anonymous figure James Phiri
challenged his ambitions to bounce back to State House after serving
his constitutional maximum two consecutive five-year terms in office.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau is also on the brink of dragging him to
court in his alleged involvement in the K1.4 billion misallocation of
public funds when he was president.

Mpasu was found guilty on all three counts for abuse of office and was
sentenced two years on each count, translating to six years.

However, according to the sentence, the six years will run consecutively and not concurrently as was previously reported.

In the consecutive sentence, it means that Mpasu will serve all the six
years in full as opposed to two years if it were to run concurrently.

His lawyer John Mwakhwawa, however, indicated he would appeal against both the conviction and sentence at the High Court.

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