FORMER cabinet minister, Raphael Kasambara, says he wants the press to leave him alone, weeks after the Supreme Court granted him bail, pending appeal, over his alleged role in the infamous ‘Cashgate’ scandal.
“I’m not a public figure,” he snarled at me. “Please leave me alone!” was his parting shot before slamming the phone after I tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to talk about life in prison and what his plans were for the future.
Kasambara served as attorney general under former President Bingu wa Mutharika as well as minister of justice during the regime of former President Joyce Banda. Many regard him as one of the most brilliant legal minds in the country.
The Supreme Court of Malawi granted him bail on the 14th of March this year, after he was handed a 13-year jail sentence by a lower court, for conspiracy to murder Paul Mphiwyo who was a government budget director.
Mphwiyo survived after he was flown out for treatment in hospital in South Africa, following an event that was first reported by Capital Radio and quickly dubbed ‘cashgate’ by the rest of the local media.
He is scheduled to reappear in Court next month to explain the roles that he played in the affair.
The shooting led to an unraveling of an intricate network, in which civil servants, private sector players and others were involved in illegally siphoning over four billion Malawi Kwacha from the government treasury.
Kasambara spent 20 months in jail alongside Macdonald Kumwembe and Pika Manondo who were his reported co-conspirators in the Mphwiyo shooting, before being given the temporary relief by the Court.
The two are still in jail after the Court turned down their appeal. The Court, however, has not determined when Kasambara will re-appear in court.
Kasambara maintained that he was innocent of any crime and is seeking appeal of his July 2016 conviction by the High Court, over what he had branded as a miscarriage of justice.
He has been contesting his conviction on the grounds that the Court erred for accepting call logs on his mobile handset as evidence of his guilt in the incidences surrounding the shooting of Mphiyo.
Since being freed, albeit temporarily, he has he has been in the news over much happier reasons, widely photographed at an international high school in Blantyre where his son was selected as a ball carrier at the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia this June. This followed a much-publicised competition that was sponsored by a leading car dealer.
Like me, reporters from several other media houses had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get Kasambara to speak about his fall from grace, his life in prison and his future plans.
When I eventually managed to reach him on the phone, he made it plain that he was not interested in talking to the press.
He claimed that he was no longer a public figure and that it was not fair to be asked about what he described as his private life.
“Please leave me alone!” he said. When he reappears in Court, three well-known lawyers: Modecai Msiska, Micheal Chipeta and Lusungu Gondwe will represent Kasambara.