The Blantyre Magistrate’s Court has committed to the High Court the K4 billion corruption case in which former Escom board chairperson Jean Mathanga and three others are being accused of flouting procurement procedures.
The lower court’s decision follows the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) request to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to issue a certificate to commit the case to the High Court.
On Tuesday morning, State lawyers produced a summary procedure trial for the case to be committed to the High Court which did not go down well with defence lawyers who argued that committing the case to the High Court was at the court’s discretion.
This compelled senior resident magistrate Emmelia Chidule to adjourn the case to afternoon when she committed the case to the High Court, stating that the State produced a certificate from the DPP to commit the case to the upper court.
She said: “We were supposed to hold preliminary enquires before committing the case, but because a certificate from the DPP has been produced to the court, we will commit the case to the higher court.”
Chidule then read all charges levelled against Mathanga, former Escom chief executive officer John Kandulu, former director of procurement Fanuel Nkhono and senior procurement manager Emmilius Kandapo.
In an interview after court, ACB chief legal and prosecution officer Victor Chiwala said he was happy that the case was committed to the High Court.
He said: “Our position was it was not at the discretion of the court because once you produce a certificate before the court, the subordinate court has to commit the file to the High Court.”
Asked why ACB made an application to commit the case to the High Court, Chiwala refused to comment on the matter and referred The Nation to ACB director general Reyneck Matemba.
When contacted, Matemba said the bureau looked at the seriousness of the crime, adding K4 billion is a huge amount of money.
All defence lawyers refused to comment on the matter.
Outside the court, Mathanga confronted The Nation reporter for taking pictures. She demanded that the pictures be deleted, arguing that taking suspects’ pictures is “immoral”.
She said: “You have been writing bad stories about us. Are you not satisfied with what you have done? Why are you taking our pictures? Delete them, this is inhuman. What if I was your sister or a relative?”
Mathanga, who is also Malawi Electoral Commission commissioner, is answering charges of giving false information contrary to Section 14 (10)(a) of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) and neglect of official duty contrary to Section 121 of the Penal Code.
She is further accused of giving false information to ACB on April 18 2017 during investigations into misprocurement of goods worth about K4 billion.
Nkhono and Kandapo are answering one charge each of abuse of office contrary to Section 25B(1) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
While Kandulu, among others, is alleged to have used his influence as chief executive officer on former director of finance Betty Mahuka to perform her duties and discharge her functions corruptly.