Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court has set November 13 to rule on whether former presidential security aide Norman Chisale should enter plea in certificate forgery case.
Chisale is answering two counts of impersonating a person named in a certificate and giving false information to a person employed in public service.
The charges date back to 1996 when ex-security aide to former president Peter Mutharika is said to have presented a Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) to Malawi Defence Force (MDF) when he sought employment.
Yesterday the State and defence lawyers tussled for over one hour on whether the suspect ought to have taken plea or not.
The accused’s lawyers, comprising Gilbert Khonyongwa, Festino Maere and Chancy Gondwe, among others, argued that Chisale may not be in his right frame of mind as he is a patient at Zomba Mental Hospital where Supreme Court of Malawi ordered that he be assessed for memory loss and insomnia.
Gondwe, who cited Oswald Lutepo’s case, told the court that at the time Chisale was discharged from the hospital he was expected to be screened by a magnet resonance imaging scan, to ascertain whether he is in the right frame of mind but this was not done as the machine is faulty.
The defence team also argued that the State did not make full disclosures of the purported certificate that was altered and that it was not served to them as procedure demands.
Said Gondwe: “It is our strong view that as the certificate forms core part of the trial and it be made available to the defense. It will inform the suspect and defence how to plea and prepare. In the current state, it won’t be fair to proceed with any plea.”
The State was also faulted for bringing up the charges after a time-lapse of 24 years which according to defence lawyers is unconstitutional and violates right to fair trial.
Queried Maere: “Our issue is that this charge violates trial to a reasonable time. Why has it taken the State this long? Are we going to have credible evidence? Will witnesses be able to remember what happened 24 years ago?”
But one of the State lawyers Steven Kayuni hit back, saying issues of constitutionality and credibility of the case as raised by Maere were outside ambient of the charge sheet, to which the magistrate agreed and ruled that the defense team should focus on plea taking and amendment of charge sheet.
Kayuni also informed the court that the State was ready with five witnesses to testify but the defence lawyers raised an objection, arguing that the State seemed to be rushing the case.
He also challenged the defence team, saying the State has two medical reports showing that Chisale is fit to stand trial and indicated that the State is ready to produce the medical reports.
It was clear from the proceedings that the arguments and counter-arguments did not give the court proper direction of the case.
Senior resident magistrate Shyreen Chirwa ruled that the suspect be formally charged of all two counts before taking plea.
After reading out the second count both the State and defence were given time to make their oral arguments this time without restrictions on the constitutionality and credibility of the case.
The State also asked the court to allow both parties to make written submissions to help the court in making its determination, and the court agreed.
Some of the objections raised by the State were that the second count was not included in the notice and therefore was an ambush, and that plea should only be entered after a report from the hospital is out.
Meanwhile, the court has directed that the defence team should make written submissions by October 30 and that the State should respond by November 6.
Chisale, clad in a blue suit was in a jovial mood and told journalists to be free to take pictures of him.
Other lawyers who represented the state included Pirirani Masanjala and Andre Salamba.