An unsubstantiated accusation of poisoning - the trial of Leonard Mondoma - Nkhota-kota, Diocese of Lake Malawi

After an alleged poisoning almost three years ago and following 18 months in prison, one year of which he was held without charge, Leonard Mondoma, the late Canon Rodney Hunter’s cook finally came to court on Tuesday this week. A twice-suspended priest, the Rev’d Denis Kayamba, had accused Mondoma, despite a lack of evidence, of poisoning his employer.

The case has been conducted in Nkhota-kota in a thoroughgoing and painstaking fashion by the judge. The court has heard statements from the Rev’d Denis Kayamba as the principle accuser of Leonard Mondoma. Even under cross-examination, Kayamba failed to produce any conclusive evidence that Canon Hunter was poisoned and was unable to explain how he had made his accusations before any forensic tests. Additionally, the police officer friend of Kayamba who was formerly in Nkhota-kota, in putting his case, also failed to produce any actual documented evidence to substantiate why Mondoma had been accused and arrested.

A report from St Anne’s Hospital (the Anglican hospital close to where Hunter lived) has also been lodged with the Court indicating that Hunter had died of cancer.

The case has now been adjourned until 22nd February when Dr Peter Kaloungwe formerly of St Anne’s but now working at Mulanje Mission will present the St Anne’s case for having treated Hunter the night before he died. Conversely, Dr Charles Dzamalala will present the findings of his autopsy performed on Hunter in which he has claimed ‘probable poisoning’ simply on basis of a dark colour of the contents of the bowel. Leaked reports in the British press of three supposed poisons were quickly discovered to have been simple medicaments taken by Hunter.

has long considered that Leonard Mondoma is the innocent victim of local Nkhota-kota ecclesiastical infighting and unsubstantiated claims of poisoning boosted by the febrile atmosphere created by sensationalist reporting from some parts of the British press.

It is to be hoped that the outcome of the trial will finally settle the matter, return this corner of Malawi to some kind of normality, and Mondoma to his family and friends.

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  1. This whole case has been a trumped up farce. It got out of hand when Ruth Gledhill of the U.K. Times newspaper wrote an article in which she declared that the late canon Hunter 'was poisoned'. This was utterly irresponsible but taken up as Gospel truth by conservative websites all over the place. In turn this effectively condemned a poor Malawian to a long stay in prison.

    I hope to God that the judge finds him innocent and exposes the nonsense about poisoning as just that.

  2. I have heard from my friends in Malawi that the principal accuser of Leonard Mondoma, Rev Denis Kayamba was also questioned as to why he was in possession of Canon Hunter's keys and will!