The High Court in Lilongwe has dismissed an application by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general, Grezeldar Jeffrey, and three others that the Attorney General (AG) should be added as a party to a case in which they are claiming about MK70 billion in compensation.
Jeffrey, Brian Kachingwe Phiri, Agnes Kaphikire [as a representative of late Phillip Kaphikire] and Tadala Chakhaza (serving as a representative of the late Bright Chakhaza] are claiming compensation for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, defamation and damages for breach of contract following their 2012 acquittal in a 2002 corruption case.
Before the application, which was heard on April 25 2018, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was the only defendant in the case.
Court documents show that, after parading five witnesses, Jeffrey and others, through lawyer Ralph Mhone, applied to the court that the AG should be added to the case.
According to judge Charles Mkandawire’s ruling, dated June 11 2018, the witnesses “were all subjected to an excruciating cross-examination and were also all re-examined”.
In the ruling, Mkandawire observes that Mhone did not raise any objection in 2015 when the AG successfully applied to be removed from the case.
“First, it is difficult to believe that all this time since 2014, the plaintiffs’ counsel did not realise that the plaintiff’s case involved other ministries and departments…. It is, therefore, an insult to intelligence that all this time the plaintiffs’ side did not realise the importance of the Attorney General to remain a defendant to these proceedings,” reads part of Mkandawire’s ruling.
In the ruling, Mkandawire says he took into account the stage at which the trial was.
“I would indeed agree with what the Attorney General has said in the sworn statement opposing this application that this application is now calculated to embarrass the office of the Attorney General. From the totality of the facts in this case, there has been inordinate and inexcusable delay. Allowing the plaintiffs to have the Attorney General join as a pray at this stage would be an abuse of the court process,” reads the ruling.
It adds: “I therefore find that taking into account that the defendant herein has a capacity to sue and be sued in its own right, this matter should proceed against it as it is.”
The ruling also says if Jeffrey and others have issues with government ministries and departments, it is up to them to pursue available legal avenues against the AG.
“This application is dismissed with costs. The court will set the matter for continued hearing within 14 days from the date of the ruling,” reads the ruling.
ACB Director General, Reyneck Matemba, has since welcomed the ruling.
“This is what we wanted. If you recall, when I took over the case, I indicated that I would have loved if the Attorney General was part of the proceedings… But when I had time to go through the file, and looked at the nature of the claims they are making, against the ACB, in March [on the 12th] I told the court that we have dropped the idea of adding the Attorney General. We will proceed with this case alone as the bureau. I knew we had a very good defence,” he said as quoted by The Daily Times.
In what became widely known as the ‘MK187 million scam’, exposed through an audit, about 55 people were implicated. Only four people were convicted and jailed and two of those convictions were set aside by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
During the 11-year trial, Jeffrey and the other three people seeking compensation were answering charges of corrupt practices with a public officer, obtaining money by false pretence, corrupt use of official powers, forgery and making a false warrant for money.