The Blantyre Magistrate’s Court yesterday ordered the State to present its witnesses, including those currently attending Parliament in Lilongwe, to testify in the corruption-related trial involving former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda.
The order followed a request from the State to adjourn the case to organise more witnesses having only managed to parade two from a list of 22.
Among those attending Parliament but are expected to appear before the court as State witnesses are Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development) and Henry Mussa (Industry, Trade and Tourism).
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi and presidential adviser on National Unity and Parliamentary Affairs Symon Vuwa Kaunda are also expected to testify.
When trial commenced on Tuesday, the State, represented by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) legal team, told the court that only two witnesses were available; hence, asked for an adjournment upon completion of the available two’s testimonies.
However, lawyers for the second accused, Rashid Tayub, director of operations for Transglobe Produce Export Limited, filed a notice of preliminary objection on Wednesday, seeking an order that no adjournment should be occasioned on the grounds of unavailability of State witnesses.
But in his oral response to the application yesterday, State counsel Macmillan Chakhala said they had not envisaged that Parliament would be in session during trial period.
But the defence team—comprising lead counsel Tamando Chokhotho, Lusungu Gondwe, Jai Banda and Madalo Banda—did not fall for the State’s arguments as they individually supported their application.
In his ruling, presiding magistrate, Blantyre chief resident magistrate Simeon Mdeza, ordered trial to proceed and that the State should find means of ensuring that the witnesses appear before the court.
He said adjourning the matter would push it to either March or May next year because his diary is crammed.
Yesterday, second State witness Feckson Kantonga—former Admarc director of operations—concluded his testimony which started on Wednesday.
In his testimony, Kantonga reiterated what his former boss, Foster Mulumbe, the former chief executive officer for Admarc, said that Chaponda and Tayub did not directly influence the offering of contract to Transglobe to supply maize to Admarc.
He said he never communicated with Chaponda and met Tayub only once when he, together with other Transglobe officials, went to Admarc to offer maize which the corporation declined to buy.
Earlier, one of Chaponda’s lawyers Frank Mbeta announced his discharge from the case and in an interview he told The Nation he could not proceed representing the former Cabinet minister because of his “very tight schedule in other courts”.
Chaponda is answering to three charges out of the four which include giving false information to 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 pleaded not guilty. n