Justice Mwondha steps in the dock
Posted Friday, February 15 2013 at 02:00
Defending self. The former IGG, who dragged the Daily Monitor to court over stories questioning her salary, says it could take more than money to repair her damaged reputation.
Justice Faith Mwondha is accustomed to wearing judicial robes. Yesterday, however, the High Court judge was not a high priestess adjudicating a criminal case but sat in a witness box – for cross examination.
Ms Mwondha, the former Inspector General of Government, found herself at the receiving end of a barrage of questions in a case where she sued the Daily Monitor for defamation over stories about her involvement in reported financial indiscretion.
Justice Mwondha told court that in publishing stories about her involvement in a salary scandal more than five years ago, the Daily Monitor severely damaged her reputation, despite being a person of high integrity who “only fears God”, and that money alone would not do much to repair the damage done.
She asked court to issue an order of clearance and compel the newspaper to run an apology to clear her name.
The two stories in contention, ‘IGG in salary scandal’ and ‘God’s warrior’ Faith Mwondha stumbles’, ran on August 19, 2007 and August 26, 2007 respectively.
The stories questioned Justice Mwondha’s integrity after she sought leave of absence without pay from the Judiciary and later lobbied government to pay her salary of a judge which was higher than that of the IGG, yet she was not performing judicial functions.
Justice Mwondha, the current resident judge of the Nakawa High Court, sued this newspaper in January 2012, seeking orders for general, punitive and aggravated damages. Also sued was senior reporter Emmanuel Gyezaho, who authored the stories.
During the two-hour cross examination, Daily Monitor Lawyer James Nangwala pressed Justice Mwondha to tell court whether she benefited from requests filed by Mr Bageya Waiswa, the accounting officer in the IGG’s office, to be paid the wages of a judge despite seeking leave of absence from the judiciary.
“I don’t know whether I was a beneficiary but I got my difference (arrears),” Ms Mwondha said. Asked whether she earned allowances as a judge or IGG, she said: “I was being paid the allowances of IGG.”
Mr Nangwala pointed out a contradiction in her reported earnings and asked whether it was not scandalous that Justice Mwondha had “jumped salaries” simply to earn more without entitlement. She denied the allegation.
This newspaper reported that Justice Mwondha moved for the higher pay after judges’ salaries had been increased.
Justice Elidad Mwangusya was, however, forced to halt the proceedings after Justice Mwondha’s lawyer, Mr George Omunyakol, asked for an adjournment to attend to other matters. Cross examination continues on Monday.