Mzimba Mass Grave Case: Suspects plead not guilty, – Capital Radio Malawi
23 April, 2024

Mzimba Mass Grave Case: Suspects plead not guilty,

.Trial set for 24-28 July

Former President Peter Mutharika’s stepson Tadikira Mafubza and five co-accused persons have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and aggravated human trafficking in person cases they are answering.

Mafubza is answering twelve charges of manslaughter and aggravated human trafficking in person alongside Samuel Navaya, Duncan Kalulu, David Luhanga, Thomas Kazembe and Boniface Ngulube.

Out of the 12 charges, the accused are individually answering 6 counts of manslaughter and 6 other counts of aggravated human trafficking in person.

Initially, they were charged with murder and human trafficking, but the murder charge, which contravenes Section 209 of the Penal Code has been substituted with manslaughter, which contravenes Section 208 of the Penal Code. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The charges are in connection to the 30 bodies of suspected illegal immigrants discovered in a mass grave inside Mtangatanga Forest Reserve in Mzimba District last year. This was between 11 to 18 October.

Mafubza and his co-accused appeared before High Court Judge Gladys Gondwe on Thursday for fresh plea taking, following last month court order for the state to amend the charge sheet.

However, before taking fresh plea, the defence team through Counsel Chrissy Kolezi Phiri of Legal Aid Bureau made three preliminary issues.

The first issue was on the charge sheet where the defence wanted the heading to indicate ‘amended charge sheet.’ The defence expressed reservations with the number of charges, arguing that 12 counts are excessive and portray the suspects as bad people.

Finally, the defence asked the court to strike-off counts of aggravated trafficking in persons as they lacked specific sufficient particulars arguing that this would make it impossible for them to mount their defence.

Objecting to the issues raised, Senior State Advocate Waliko Nkosi said the heading could not have any effect on the trial and on the number of counts.

Nkosi said they view that as permissible as they arise from the same facts. On striking-off the aggravated trafficking in person counts, Nkosi said including a definition for each count would make the charge sheet long and could bring confusion.

In her determination, Justice Gondwe dismissed all the three submissions after noting that the issues raised could not affect the trial and were within the law.

Thereafter, all the six suspects took their pleas and they all pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Following their plea of not guilty, the state asked the court for five days for parading 14 registered witnesses, which will help the state prove their case against the accused.

The state also indicated that it would be ready with the witnesses any day between the end of July and early August.

Justice Gondwe then set July 24-28 for trial, as the defence did not object to the period suggested by the state.

Meanwhile, Justice Gondwe has given bail to the four accused persons namely Boniface Ngulube, Duncan Kalulu, David Luhanga and Thomas Kazembe. The four have been in custody since their arrest in November last year.

Bail conditions include a cash bond of one million kwacha, two traceable sureties who are biological relatives bonded at three million kwacha each non-cash, surrendering copies of their National IDs, presenting themselves to police every fortnight on Thursdays and surrendering their travelling documents to the court’s Assistant Registrar.

The development leaves one suspect Samuel Navaya still in custody. The court denied his bail application in March this year. His lawyer Moses Nkhono has since re-applied for his temporary release and the application is now awaiting court determination expected seven days after receiving a response from the state in seven days’ time.

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