Lawyers for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice president for the South George Chaponda and Transglobe’s Director Rashid Tayub on Friday submitted for a ‘no case to answer’ defense before the Zomba Senior Resident Magistrate in the Zambia maize procurement deal.
Chaponda is answering three charges which include giving false information to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while Tayub is answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position. They both deny the charges.
The former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development was arrested last year alongside Blantyre-based businessperson Rashid Tayub, who is operations director of Transglobe Produce Limited, for suspected corrupt acts in the maize transaction.
In their oral submission te defence team comprising Tamando Chokhotho—representing Chaponda and Lusungu Gondwe and Jai Banda representing Tayubtold Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotcha that the evidence which the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has is not sufficient to enable the accused to enter defense.
“The first accused’s (Chaponda) submission of no case to answer is made pursuant to Section 254 of the criminal procedures and evidence code, which provides that if upon taking all the evidence referred to in section 253 and any evidence which the court may decide to add at that stage of the trial the court is if the opinion that no case is made out against the accused sufficiently to require him to make a defense,” said Chokhotho.
He said the State was not too sure on whether to charge or not to charge the accused, but acted on the outcries of the general public.
Chokhotho said during cross examination, ACB Principal investigator Exton Kamkwete admitted that there was no sufficient evidence to effect an arrest but they did so under the direction but someone from above whose identity was not disclosed in court.
In his observation, Chokhotho said as minister of agriculture, Chaponda’s duty was to make sure that there is enough food in the country.
“The minister had to discharge his duties to make sure that Malawians have enough food. We should not create a situation where public officers should be afraid to discharge their duties,” said Chokhotho.
Chokhotho said the State failed to treat their own witnesses who were leaning towards the defense as “hostile witnesses”, saying they were trying to override what their witnesses were saying.
” This has been a long journey and we dont want another one. We have heard what the state had and it was not worth it so it is our plea that the accused be acquitted of all the charges,” he said.
Tayub’s lawyer Jai Banda in submissions, argued that no single witness adduced any evidence incriminating the accused.
“Your honour we are of the view that the State has completely failed to make out a case against the accused… You will observe from the evidence there is nothing implicating the accused to persuade Mr Mulumbe [former chief executive officer for Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation-Admarc] to offer a contract to Transglobe to export from Zambia 50 000 metric tonnes of maize for Admarc to purchase,” said Banda.
“In cross examination, most if the witnesses agreed that there was nothing wrong with a trader going to Admarc to look for business. If pursuing someone to offer a contract is an offence, how are we going to do business in the country? I am of the view that the state has failed to make out a prima facie case,” he said.
Banda said it should also be observed that at the time Transglobe’s officials went to Admarc to offer maize, the spokesperson for the company was Salim Tayub and not Rashid.
And on the second occasion, Banda said Rashid was not present.
“So when did he persuade Mr Mulumbe to offer a contract? The State has failed to make out a case,” he said.
Another defense lawyer Lusungu Gondwe said there was no case worth it’s salt.
“This is a case which found its way in this court because of overzealous prosecution,” he said.
Zomba chief resident magistrate Paul Chiotcha adjourned the corruption-related case to Friday April 27 for the State to make its oral submissions.
The chief resident magistrate will make his determination on May 18 2018 on owhether the two habe a case to answer or not.
Chaponda was fired from Cabinet on February 22 2017 following public pressure after the ACB instituted investigations on allegations of his involvement in the K26 billion maize import deal from Zambia, popularly known as maizegate.