A MAGISTRATES’ Court in Mzuzu yesterday convicted a
newly-elected Aford MP and four accomplices for
wounding a former UDF official in January last
First Grade Magistrate Cuthbert Phiri ordered Yeremiah
Chihana, MP for Mzimba North. and his four cohorts to
serve 18 months’ hard labour for wounding Patrick
Kemwenda, who was the UDF’s district organising
Chihana, who won by–elections in the constituency
last month, no longer remains a legislator following
his conviction as the Presidential and Parliamentary
Elections (PPE) Act now bars him from being one.
The accomplices are Chimbagodi, 53, of Chinjoka Nkhuni
village; Very Shaba, 46, from Aram Jere Village;
Khumalo Masiye Jere, 24, and Elijah Hara, 41, of
Jere Village, all from T/A Mpherembe in Mzimba.
Reading his ruling for four hours, the magistrate said
the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the
accused had on January 11 planned to assault Kumwenda.
In mitigation, Chihana asked for an optional sentence
of a fine, saying he had just been elected MP and had
lived a crime-free life. He said by being elected MP,
it had showed that he had public trust. He also cited
family obligations. The other four also said they had
families to look after.
Passing the sentence, Phiri said unlawful wounding was
a serious offence attracting a maximum sentence of
seven years. He observed that the mitigating factors,
that they were first offenders and that Kumwenda was
alive, all worked in their favour. But he said Chihana
was a ringleader, having organised the men to assault
“Politicians should know that violence does not pay.
It is by sheer luck that Kumwenda is alive, otherwise
we would have been talking about murder here,”
He quashed the option of a fine, saying in felonies
people take money as a shield. “It means rich people
would take the law into their own hands and that
prisons would be full of poor people. In order for the
victims to get a sense of justice, I find that a
custodial sentence would be suitable,” Phiri said.
He, therefore, slapped the four with 18 months’ hard
labour effective from yesterday. Phiri, however,
acquitted the five on the count of theft of
K65,000. He said the State had failed to bring
witnesses from the UDF party to show that
Kumwenda had signed for the money. The court said the
State failed to bring a list of UDF monitors and the
amount they would get, which would have tallied
with the K65,000. He, therefore, said it was doubtful
that the five had stolen The money, saying the State
had presented smear evidence. “If Kumwenda had said
it was personal money, I would have believed the
State,” Phiri said.
Lawyer for the convicts, Marshall Chilenga, declined
to talk to the press. The State was represented by
Regional Prosecution Officer Paul Mkandawire.
Chihana is the second Aford MP to lose a seat after
Mzimba’s Loveness Gondwe lost her Mzimba West seat
following a High Court ruling that there had been
electoral irregularities in her constituency. There
was no immediate comment from Aford yesterday.
The PPE Act that has dented Chihana’s political
ambition says in Section 33: “When a member of the
National Assembly has been sentenced by a court
to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 12
months, is adjudged or declared by the courts to be of
unsound mind or bankrupt or has been convicted of any
offence prescribed under this act, it shall not be
necessary for the Speaker to give notice that such
member’s seat has become vacant until the time for
appeal against such decision has expired or if there
is an appeal until the determination of the appeal.
BY COLLINS MTIKA