Four former senior public officers in the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration have pleaded not guilty to 10 collective counts related to dubious procurement of public land in Blantyre.
The officials—former chief secretary to the government Lloyd Muhara, former Ministry of Defence principal secretary Bright Kumwembe, former minister of Lands Symon Vuwa Kaund a and former deputy minister of Transport Charles Mchacha—appeared before High Court of Malawi Judge Annabel Mtalimanja in Lilongwe yesterday for plea.
Mchacha, who bought the land belonging to Department of Forestry in Kanjedza Forest in Blantyre, was the first to take plea and he pleaded
not guilty to three counts of inducing public officers to perform their duties corruptly and one count of using insulting words against Nation Publications Limited journalist Bobby Kabango.
kaunda , wh o is answering two counts, was next and he too pleaded not guilty to the charges of corrupt transaction with a private individual and misuse of office.
Muhara also pleaded not guilty to charges of misuse of office and neglect of official duty as did Kumwembe on counts of giving false information and neglect of official duty.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which is prosecuting the case, has indicated that it will parade 25 witnesses.
Yesterday, the ACB paraded Stella Gama, a former director of Forestry, who told the court that lease for the said land was granted to Mchacha without consent from Minister of Natural Resources.
She told the court that she learnt that the land in question had been cancelled as part of the forest because it was being developed.
Gama said: “I received a call from deputy director of Forestry responsible for the southern zone. She expressed concern that she had seen developments in the forest. When we went there, we found that the land was being developed. A fence was constructed.”
She also told the court that part of the forest had also been allocated for development of residential houses.
In cross-examination, Gama said she did not have figures of how many plots were allocated for a residential area and whether there was documentation.
“We were aware that Ministry of Lands was allocating plots to private individuals, but did not get documentation of the process,” she said.
The case has been adjourned to August 3 for continued hearing.
The four were arrested in connection with alleged illegal acquisition of land. The land was leased to Mchacha while the other three allegedly played various roles in their official capacities to facilitate the transaction