Lawyers representing former Escom CEO Alexon Chiwaya and former director of human resources Daphter Namandwa have asked the court to discontinue a case in which the two are answering abuse of office and fraud charges.
The lawyers, Wapona Kita and Chikondi Chamkakala, representing Chiwaya and Enock Chibwana representing Namandwa, made the request yesterday in Blantyre before senior resident magistrate Elijah Blackboard Dazilikwiza Sachalo Daniels.
Kita asked the court to acquit the two, arguing that the High Court recently determined that Escom is a private company.
He said: “Is it necessary for the court to hear evidence on this matter when we have [a] judgement that Escom is a private company?”
But State advocate Dzikondianthu Malunda objected to the defence’s request, arguing that Chiwaya and Namandwa were both employed as public servants.
He asked the court to allow the State to proceed with parading its witnesses.
Said Malunda: “There is no meaning to the State because these offences apply to everyone. We need to proceed hearing evidence on the matter.”
After hearing submissions from both sides, Daniels directed the State to start parading its witnesses.
However, he advised the defence to file a formal application on its request.
Later, the State brought in its first witness Piso Katundulu, a head driver at Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi(Escom).
In his testimony, he told the court that between 2018 and 2020, Escom transport manager Chifundo Tsegula directed him to fuel some vehicles which did not belong to corporation.
He mentioned individuals such as Muchanakhwaye Mpuluka, who is also Muhlako wa Alhomwe chief executive officer (CEO), businessperson James Chuma and the owner of Mulanje Shoprite (name not disclosed in court) and Sheikh Mtenje as some of the beneficiaries of the fuel.
During the re-examination, Malunda asked Katundulu in what capacity the beneficiaries received the fuel.
In his response, Katundulu said he was just directed by his bosses and had no idea of what capacity they were benefitting, adding that Malawi Police Service and Malawi Defence Force also benefited twice when there were protests at the corporation.
During the cross-examination, Kita told the court that the evidence Katundulu tendered in court was not attached to Chiwaya and Namandwa.
He said: “The charge sheet also shows that fuel was being used by DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] functionaries, but there is no mention of the DPP in the testimony.”
Daniels adjourned the matter to this afternoon.
In an interview after the court adjournment, Kita said the defence reminded the court of a High Court judgement which says Escom is a private company and not a public entity.
Malunda said the State has 11 more witnesses to parade in court.
The High Court recently cleared the mystery on Escom after upholding a 2009 ruling that the corporation is a private company limited.