by NATION REPORTER (7/20/2008)
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing if former President Bakili Muluzi has a case to answer for sending money to High Court Judge Edward Twea while the judge was in hospital last year, Weekend Nation can reveal.
Twea said on Monday he could not receive the monetary gift "on professional grounds" and had to return it through the Registrar of the High Court.
Said Twea in an interview: "I was in hospital last year at CURE in Blantyre and received gifts. Some of the gifts were not acceptable professionally and these were referred to the Registrar to send back to the people that had sent them. You can get details of the gifts that were referred to the Registrar from the Deputy Registrar."
ACB public relations officer Egrita Ndala said yesterday Muluzi’s gift attracted the attention of the bureau and it instituted investigations.
"The Anti-Corruption Bureau indeed received the above complaint and proceeded to carry out a preliminary inquiry in respect of the same," said Ndala: "The information gathered is currently being reviewed to determine whether a full investigation should be mounted."
High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Deputy Registrar Dorothy Kamanga also confirmed that Muluzi gave money to the judge which was returned on ethical grounds.
"I do not know how much it was. I was not there," she said.
But unconfirmed reports allege Muluzi sent three bundles of new K50 banknotes. Bank sources said three bundles of K50s make K15, 000.
Efforts to talk to Muluzi proved futile as his cell phone went unanswered for several times.
But his personal assistant Lucius Banda said: "I do not think my boss had any motive behind the gift. He has helped many people and Malawians know that he is a generous man."
Weekend Nation investigations reveal that former registrar Slyvester Kalembera, wrote Muluzi on May 15, 2007, explaining why the judge could not accept the money.
Reads the letter from Kalembera, now a High Court judge: "I have been directed by Honourable Justice Twea to inform you that he is very grateful for your message of goodwill which you sent him as a result of his illness.
"However, His Lordship has further advised me that it would be inappropriate and unethical for him to accept the money that accompanied your goodwill message.
"Consequently I hereby return the money on his behalf. I trust that the foregoing is in order."
Executive director of Justice Link Justin Dzonzi said the judge did "very well" to reject the money.
"Had he taken the money, it would have been difficult to handle any case involving Muluzi even if he had acted professionally," said Dzonzi who is also a lawyer.
Twea is one of the three Constitutional Court judges handling a case in which James Phiri is disputing Muluzi’s decision to contest again in the presidential elections next year, having served two consecutive five-year terms already. The other judges are Joseph Manyungwa and Healey Potani.
During the first hearing of the case in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday this week the three judges shocked the parties to the matter by describing the issue as an internal dispute within the party which the court can’t get involved in at this stage.
Phiri, through his lawyer Christopher Chiphwanya, asked the court to interpret Section 83 (3) of the Constitution which reads in part: "The President, the First Vice-President and the Second Vice-President may serve in their respective capacities a maximum of two consecutive terms..."
The ACB also instituted investigations on Muluzi last year in May following reports that he gave out money to court clerks at Blantyre Magistrate’s Court where he went with his lawyer Ralph Kasambara for a case in which he was accusing DPP Director of Women for the South Alefa Wenzulo, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Malawi Television of defamation.