COURT MOVED TO HDU AT KCH

Down Memory Lane: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2010

The court case against Dean Van Schalkwyk was moved to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) of the Kamuzu Central Hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Magistrate Chifundo Kachale granted bail for the accused and agreed to resume the trial with testimony and cross-examination of Cephas Chimdima for - what he said - was in the interest of justice and the welfare of the victim.

Five hundred thousand kwacha in a cash bond and as surities was paid by Mr. Van Schalkwykw, his wife, and father-in-law for his release Tuesday afternoon.

They said they were considering the welfare of the victim.

In the process, critically ill patients were disturbed at Kamuzu Central Hospital.

Sephas Chimdima was placed in a room in the high dependency unit last week to protect him from prying eyes.

The 70-something-year-old man was working as a watchman for the accused when dogs attacked and mauled him.

Head Nurse of the High Dependency Unit, Mrs. Gift Mwalwanda Gumbo was shocked to find Mr. Chimdima’s room filled with more than 12 people, including lawyers, a court clerk, and three members of the media, the accused and police.

“The rooms are not that big and I felt that the environment was not conducive for him. He needed oxygen and the room was full of people…that crowd, to me, it was like he’s being intimidated because he cannot answer questions to the lawyer the magistrate and everyone who was there unprepared.….I do not think that my patient was prepared for that,” says Mr. Chimdima," Gumbo said.

With tears in his eyes, stitches in his face, and missing most of his left ear and half of his lip, Mr. Chimdima answered questions about his background and the events of July 14th.

It wasn’t his first time offering such a statement that day.

Less than one hour before court at the hospital started, three police officers visited the patient’s room and questioned Mr. Chimdima.

Prosecutor Happy Mkandawire refused to be recorded, but spoke to a Zodiak reporter - saying such questioning of a witness is normal procedure prior to and during trial.

The victim's brother, Mr. Daletoam Chimdima, says he was at his brother’s bedside when the police asked him to narrate everything he knows.

He also said he believes government officials are coordinating the trip to South Africa for cosmetic surgery.

“Those who came first are officials from the Ministry of Labour. And when they came here, they took some pictures and other details and this makes me believe they are the ones that are facilitating this,” said Mr. Chimdima.

Mr. Chimdima later testified that he showed up at 8 p.m. on July 14th as agreed with his boss.

He said he entered the property through the gate with his bicycle, a radio, and panga knife.

When asked why he carried a panga knife, Mr. Chimdima said he used it as a guard to scare people - just like - in his words - a soldier carries a sword.

He said when the dogs first saw him, they started barking.

He started swinging the panga, but they attacked and he fell down.

Mr. Chimdima said that’s when his boss, the accused - Mr. Van Schalkwyk - grabbed the panga and tried to help him.

The victim said the dogs overpowered his boss who later took him to the hospital without any clothing.

Mr. Chimdima said he worked for the Van Schalkwyks for three years and the former owners of the house two years prior to that.

Under cross-examination, he revealed that he and the cook had to switch homes in separate boys quarters because the cook and the accused’s wife were not on good terms.

After further questioning, the victim told the lawyer for the defence that the things he was asking were unnecessary.

Nurse Mwalwanda Gumbo interrupted court proceedings 15 minutes after 1 o’clock to express her concerns.

“At first when I tried to ask them to say 'you are stressing the patient and he’s not coherent at the moment', I was overruled," said Mrs. Gumbo.

When she later noticed the patient’s blood pressure had dropped, she called in another nurse.

The Defence then paused his questioning and asked for guidance from the Magistrate.

A little less than one hour after the proceedings started, Magistrate Kachale adjourned court in the High Dependency Unit saying it was impractical and that they would resume after proper consultations with medical personnel.

Mr. Chimdima’s mouth trembled and his eyes closed before everyone left the room.

Three other critically ill patients laid unconscious in the unit which normally restricts visitors to two per patient.

Mr. Van Schalkwyk exited the hospital free of handcuffs with his wife and lawyer.

According to the terms of his bail, he will report to the Procsecutor’s office at Police Headquarters in Area 30 at 8:00 a.m. every Wednesday.

If he follows the conditions for his release, the 200-thousand kwacha cash bond and 300-thousand kwacha in surities will be returned.

The cross-examination of Mr. Chidima is tentatively scheduled to continue at Kamuzu Central Hospital on Friday.