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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 13:45 GMT
Malawi minister causes court stir
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre
Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre witnessed high drama on Thursday as a government minister appeared in court.
A visibly unconcerned Dumbo Lemani, the minister of state for presidential affairs arrived at the High Court in style.
Mr Lemani is charged with contempt of court for ignoring a gagging order.
"I tasted Kamuzu's prison," he said referring to former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda's notorious prisons. "I want to taste [President] Dr Bakili Muluzi's now."
Inside, the court heard how Mr Lemani had ignored a court ruling stopping politicians commenting on the corruption case of sacked minister Brown Mpinganjira.
The case was adjourned to allow the defence more time to prepare its case.
He led a group of at least 200 supporters, comprising mostly women, in song and dance vilifying Mpinganjira's newly-formed National Democratic Alliance pressure group.
Despite protestations from court officials that the noise his supporters were making was disturbing other cases in progress, the minister went ahead to address his supporters on the court steps.
"I am not afraid of prospects of going to jail because with the coming to power of President Bakili Muluzi, human rights in prisons have greatly improved," he said.
About 20 NDA supporters and officials, who came for the case, were grossly outnumbered and overwhelmed by Mr Lemani's vocal supporters.
They just looked on as the minister and a horde of UDF MPs and officials criticised their pressure group.
Mr Lemani, who is never far from controversy, is the first minister in all President Muluzi's seven years in power to appear in court while still a minister.
Known as cowboy for his sometimes rowdy antics, Lemani is a trained church minister whom President Muluzi recently jokingly referred to as the "reverend without a church".