State lawyers yesterday failed to parade their witnesses in the corruption-related case, popularly known as Maizegate, following a mix up in some documents which defence lawyers claimed were not in their possession.
Among the documents was a letter dated October 22 2016 which George Chaponda, then minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, allegedly wrote to former Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe.
The Zomba Magistrate’s Court was scheduled to continue hearing the matter from 9am but after close to two hours of waiting in the courtroom, the parties left for the chambers of acting chief resident magistrate (CRM) Paul Chiotcha.
Briefing journalists later, Chaponda’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho said they filed an application requesting the State to produce the “new” documents which were reportedly referred to by one of the State witnesses in his statement.
“Upon studying some documents the State served on us, we realised they were referring to other documents which we were not served with and we have never seen or heard about them yet three witnesses have so far testified,” he said.
But in a separate interview, lead State counsel, Macmillan Chakhala, who is principal prosecution officer for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), disputed Chokhotho’s claims, saying there were no fresh documents.
The case, which was moved to Zomba Magistrate’s Court after the High Court in Blantyre rejected the State’s wish for it to try the matter, will proceed on February 21.
Last week, trial also failed to proceed following fresh submissions both the State and defence teams made on the first day proceedings at Zomba Magistrate’s Court.
The ex-minister, who is also governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president responsible for the Southern Region and parliamentarian for Mulanje West, and his co-accused Rashid Tayub of Transglobe Produce Export Limited were arrested by ACB last July on suspicion of corruption relating to the procurement of K26 billion worth of maize from Zambia.
Chaponda is answering three charges 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 denied the charges. n