Former Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda and his co-accused in the case relating to the Zambian maize import transactions have pleaded with the court hearing the case for a speedy trial and applied for the ban of the media from publishing documents of the case before they are formally submitted following the leaking witness details.
Earlier during the Thursday hearing, Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate Simeon Mdeza wanted the case to be adjourned to 8 January, 2018 indicating that his diary was congested due to last month’s judiciary support staff strike which has resulted in a number of cases stalling.
However, both the lawyers for defence and prosecution expressed reservations on the January, 2018 date.
Chaponda said he wants the case expedited so that he is vindicated.
While Rashi Tayub, a director at Transglobe, said the delay in commencement of the case has affected his businesses as he is failing to access bank loans since people have already made their judgement on his character.
Mdeza granted the two’s request from the two and said the Court will start hearing the case from November 14 and set November 17, 21-24, as when the hearing will be continued.
Earlier on Mdeza also cautioned the media against publishing information that has not been debated in court to avoid prejudicing the case.
This follows some witness statements which were published in the print media last week of which Director of Public Prosecution Mary Kachale expressed her displeasure over the coverage.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) disclosed it has lined up 22 to testify as prosecution witnesses and served a statement of disclosure to the defence team.
However, witnesses list has been leaked to the media and among them it is known Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is also the official government spokesperson, will testify alongside Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe as Henry Mussa the Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism.
The ministers recorded statements have also been leaked such that Finance Minister Gondwe recorded to testify that he told Chaponda that the importation of maize from Zambia at $450 per tonne was “unprocedural”.
Gondwe also directed that “all the public procurement requirements as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act and the Office of the Director of public Procurement would have to be met.”
However, ACB is not amused with the leakage and officials are blaming the defence team for “tactically leaking the witness list to intimidate them.”
An official of ACB who opted to have his name shielded told Nyasa Times that they fear witnesses are being intimidated to defeat the course of justice.
The anti-graft body fears defence witness information had put the security of “critical” prosecution witnesses in jeopardy.
ACB are “dismayed” by the defence whom they accused of disclosing the identities of prosecution witnesses.
The blame is also targeted at lawyer Frank Mbeta for being responsible for the leakage.
One of the State Counsels, MacMillan Chakhala said every document they served the defence on the case was being leaked to the media.
But Madalo Banda, one of Tayub’s lawyers told the court that the publication of the witness statements infringed on the independence of the witnesses , saying it was dangerous because they ere not sworn testImonies as they had not been formally submitted to court.
“We need out witnesses oto be independent of outside influence, independent of each other and indeed any other influence therefore having the witnesses exposed to each other’s testimonies might either influence others not to testify or might either influence other witnesses to change their testimony to be in accordance with the testimonies of other witnesses,”Banda said.
Lead defence counsel Tamanda Chokhotho also accused the prosecution of equally talking to the media.
Magistrate Mdeza cautioned the media to remain within “its territory and not go beyond.” When reporting about the case or risk being in contempt of court.
He refused to blame anyone for the leakage of the documents but cautioned that “be mindful of the consenquences of such actions.”
On Monday, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) made a u-turn on its earlier decision to consolidate charges and transfer the case to Lilongwe after the two accused obtained a court order restricting the consolidation of the case.
The failure by the ACB to consolidate the case and have it transferred to Lilongwe means that the cases will be handled separately with the two accused being tried in Blantyre while Mijiga-Mhango will be tried in Lilongwe.
The ACB has indicated that it has lined up 22 witnesses to testify in the matter.
The embattled former minister, who is also vice-president for the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) responsible for Southern Region and member of Parliament (MP) Mulanje South West Constituency, was charged with two criminal counts of misusing public office and possession of foreign currency without the lawful a.
His alleged accomplices—Rashid Tayub, director of Transglobe Produce Export Limited and Grace Mijiga-Mhango, a businessperson and chairperson of the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA)—were arrested by ACB for their alleged roles in the dubious purchase of maize from Zambia.
They all deny any wrong doing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :