The declaration by Senzani’s lawyer, Necton Mhura that he will file an appeal against the High Court ruling on his client is beyond an insult to the public anticipation and expected relief. Already, the public is immersed in pain and anger due to the Cashgate scam in which his client was implicated.
The High Court on Tuesday, 7th October, 2014, convicted Senzani, a former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Culture, of money laundering and theft and slapped her with a 3-year jail sentence. According to the court’s remarks, the charges against her attract a maximum penalty of 10 years and a minimum of 3 years. The court proceeded with the minimum sentence clarifying that the convict had been cooperative with the court throughout her trial process and that the money she stole had been duly recovered by the State.
Now, here we have a lawyer representing Senzani alleging that 3 years was too much of a punishment. The lawyer further accuses the court saying the sentence is a miscarriage of justice. In his ‘corrupted’ opinion, Mhura says the court should have handed a suspended sentence in which his client would not be subjected to a jail term.
In his reasoning, the ‘corrupted’ lawyer advances that since his client was a first-time offender and that the said money was since recovered by State, a suspended sentence was ideal. He further argues that his client has been corporative throughout her trial process.
Does it really take a multiple-time offender to receive due punishment by the court? What about if all people involved in the Cashgate scandal at hand are first-time offenders? Does that mean no punishment should be meted on them? With all due respect and a little bit of a scratched nerve, I find this selfish defense by this selfish lawyer an outright insult to the public interest.
In the first place, I was disappointed by the judge Ivy Kamanga for passing such a lenient sentence in the face of such a grave crime. Now, the lawyer’s remarks are far much disappointing engraving the already suffered insult.
Senzani committed a crime that has pushed the nation to the polar awkward position. Donors have decisively withheld their support due to this fiscal scandal. End result, Malawi is grappling with its budget funding. Ramifications are equally punitive to the public as it has to brace untold hardships, which may at the moment, not be in the immediate sight.
Grave as this matter is, here we have a joking lawyer saying there should have been no punishment at all. The argument that the stolen money has since been returned is equally irritating as it is to our knowledge that it was not a loan. This was theft by public servant.
In my understanding, the lawyer made such arguments as his client being cooperative with the court, hence not wasted court’s time and the on top of pleading guilty to the laid charges, the accused paid back the money in question. The court’s judgment, as indicated by the judge, considered all these factors and came up with the now contended minimum sentence. What more does this lawyer need? Much as he is there to represent the best interest of his client, it must come to his cognizance that the law is there to serve the people. Thus the grieved public deserve more consideration.
Indeed, a punishment is a deterrent, otherwise if we have lenient sentences, chances are that we may not be dealing with the problem because people, especially first-time offenders, will calculate and conclude that perhaps it is worthwhile taking a risk of being in prison for three years and enjoy millions of stolen money thereafter.