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Malawi VP’s Legal Limbo Continues

ALTHOUGH the corruption trial against Malawi Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima has been halted by the state, it does not necessarily mean that the charges against him have been dismissed.

So, technically speaking, he has not been declared innocent by the court.


The trial was discontinued by the state before Chilima could take a plea, and the case start with evidence being laid out in court.

There is a general belief among political observers in Malawi that although the decision to discontinue the matter was requested by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), based on his determination that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had not done a professionally good job of preparing a case with evidence that would pass muster in court, it is not as clear cut as that.

They believe that the real reason lies in the realisation that the evidence the defence demanded, which includes minutes of the National Defence Committee meeting chaired by President Lazarus Chakwera where the award of contracts to Zuneth Sattar without a competitive tender process was decided, was likely to implicate the president himself in the alleged corruption for which Chilima was being charged.

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) had also opposed making the contracts public, claiming that it would compromise national security.

In an earlier ruling, Judge Redson Kapindu agreed with the state about the sensitive nature of the evidence and declined to order that it be shared with the defence lawyers.

However, he made it clear that if in the course of the trial it became necessary to provide the evidence in order to ensure that the defendant’s right to a fair trial was respected, he would invite the lawyers for the state and the defence to view the evidence in chambers.

It is suspected that this must have alarmed the president and some senior MDF officers who may also be compromised by the evidence.

So, this may be more about protecting certain individuals in the top echelons of government, politics and the military than about exonerating Chilima.

All attention will be on the statement that the DPP will make to the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee when he presents his reasons for discontinuing the prosecution next week. This leaves Chilima in the awkward position of being let off the hook for now but without a clear legal determination that he has been declared innocent by a court of law of the charges that have been hanging over him for more than a year.

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