20 November 2017
Breaking News

Cry for Justice: Remanded for life?

Written by  Sam Majamanda


Phalombe court users committee discussing Friday Makondetsa's matter - Pic by Sam Majamanda

Phalombe, September 16, 2017: The file went missing when his case was approaching judgment stage in 2006 and for 11 years now, the accused is still being held on remand as High Court in Blantyre fails to locate it. 

Friday Makondetsa’s case is probably a classic example of the legal maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied” because he has been kept under harsh conditions over the years before being proven guilty by the courts.

Makondetsa, 42, from Tawanga Village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Jenala in Phalombe District was arrested and appeared before the High Court to answer murder charges.

He was alleged to have killed his grandfather, Biliyati Savala, 91, after accusing him of witchcraft following a mysterious illness that attacked his father.

Prison and Court authorities in Phalombe and Mulanje confirm that Mkondetsa is currently spending his 11th year inside the walls of Mulanje Prison despite the justice system not granting him a proper trial.

Mulanje Prison Station Officer (SO) Charles Nyangu explains that the case stalled after its file disappeared from the High Court close to judgment stage.

“We, as prison authorities, were told by High Court authorities that Makondetsa’s case file could no longer be found as such it was hard for the court to conclude his case.

“So we kept housing him in our premises awaiting a day when the court would tell us that they have found the file. Unfortunately, we still haven’t heard from them,” Nyangu says.

He adds that what is more worrisome to them is that over the years Makondetsa has developed several health problems such as diabetes and is now showing signs of cancer.

He was diagnosed with diabetes early this year and since then his health continues to deteriorate despite receiving medical treatment.

“We fear he might lose his life while here yet he has not been sentenced; a thing that in the end will haunt us as negligent people,” Nyangu adds.

Looking really sick and uninterested in talking, the overstayed remandee does not talk much about himself and the case.

He only asks one question; whether the Malawian judicial system is run by human beings who know what they are doing.

While hoping that God will answer his prayers some day, the confined father of three thinks that someone with an ill mind deliberately took away his file in order for him to be incarcerated for life without judgment.

“For all these years, I have been trying to understand just how the whole judicial system could fail to locate my file or at least provide me with option B after realizing that retrieving my file may not be possible.

“And they say what they are doing in the country is justice delivering. Really?” bemoans Makondetsa.

He says it is painful to watch convicts come into the prison, serve their jail terms and leave him there, still waiting for his judgment day.

“Some habitual offenders have found and left me here after serving their terms and came back again only to find me still waiting for the day when the High Court will say ‘Makondetsa we have your judgment now’,” Makondetsa says.

He likens his case to a situation where one is in a foreign land temporarily and is not sure whether to start building a house because he might be going back home sooner or later.

Apart from the diabetes, he has developed a tumor on his left breast which he claims doctors have not yet diagnosed.

Magistrate Damson Banda of the Phalombe Magistrate Court says he is aware of Makondetsa’s case and has made attempts to have him served with proper and timely justice but to no avail.

“We have tried to liaise with the High Court on the matter but up to date, nothing has happened and the answer remains that the file is still missing,” Banda says.

However, Banda suggests that Makondetsa’s option could be hiring a lawyer either from the Legal Aid Department or a private law firm to assist him in bargaining for the conclusion of his case or a discharge if concluding it is impossible.

Consistent efforts to speak with Judiciary spokesperson Mulenga Mvula proved futile as calls made to him went unanswered for consecutive days.

Sections 41 and 42 of The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi provides for the right to access to justice and legal remedies, and a fair trial.

However, when institutions such as the Judiciary that are expected to defend and uphold the laws of the land start flouting the same laws, it raises questions as to how safe Malawians are in the hands of their judicial system.

Meanwhile, Makondetsa continues to languish in bad health at Mulanje Prison, serving a sentence that was never given to him by the High Court in Blantyre.

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