High Court Judge Gladys Gondwe has directed the state to amend the charge sheet in a murder and human trafficking case involving Former President Peter Mutharika’s stepson Tadikira Mafubza and five other persons.
The directive follows the court’s observation that the charge sheet was missing some information.
Mafubza and five others namely Samuel Navaya, Duncan Kalulu, David Luhanga, Thomas Kazembe and Boniface Ngulube are answering charges in connection to the 30 bodies of illegal immigrants discovered in a mass grave inside Mtangatanga Forest Reserve in Mzimba District last year.
They appeared before Judge Gondwe on Wednesday for plea taking on two charges that of Murder and Aggravated Trafficking in Persons.
According to the reading of the charges, individually, the six, are accused of killing 30-suspected Ethiopian nationals between 11 and 18 October last year as well as engaging in illegal acts of trafficking 30 Ethiopians to an unknown destination.
They all pleaded not guilty and the prosecution through Daniel Kuyokwa informed the court that they intend to parade 14 witnesses to prove their case and they will need five days to so. He further disclosed that they would make additional disclosures, which include post mortem reports within seven days.
Nevertheless, the court noted that the accused were charged with a single count of murder while the case involves 30 bodies, and that the aggravated trafficking charge did not make specific particulars regarding individual illegal acts.
Both the state and the defence agreed to the court’s observation. This led to Judge Gondwe’s ruling, directing the state to go back to the drawing board and split counts of murder as well as make specific particulars on the aggravated trafficking charge.
This means that the accused will have to enter a fresh plea based on the amended charge sheet, which Gondwe has ordered to be ready five days before the next court proceeding slated for June 8.
Reacting to the ruling, one of the defence lawyers Chikondi Samuel Duke from Legal Aid Bureau said they are satisfied with the determination.
“Of course we welcome the directive by the court because it goes towards the charges being clearer. This is because the way the charges were framed, they had some other information, which was missing but now the charges will be clearer and as such, it will help the clients to appreciate the actual charges against them. With clear particulars they will be able to know as to how they should respond to the charges,” Duke said.
Following the court’s determination on the charge sheet, lawyers representing Navaya, Kalulu, Luhanga, Kazembe and Ngulube made oral bail applications on behalf of their clients. The five have been in custody since their arrest in November last year
Speaking to Journalists after court proceedings, Duke said they made the application because “all offences are bailable including murder,” which their clients are answering and that bail can be granted at any stage of the case.
“They are innocent until proven guilty. Bail is granted when it is in the interest of justice to do so and all the factors are pointing to the fact that it is in the interest of justice that our clients should be granted bail,” Duke said.
Meanwhile, Judge Gondwe has reserved bail ruling and subsequent directions to the day the accused will avail themselves to take fresh plea.