Former Cabinet minister George Chaponda is expected to return to court in Zomba in three months’ time for retrial in the Maizegate case after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) appealed his acquittal, the High Court has confirmed.
According to notice of mention signed by the presiding judge Redson Kapindu on December 13 2019, all parties in the case are invited before the court in March, where a decision will be made on the direction of the case.
“Let all parties concerned attend mention before the Judge in chambers on the 12 day of March 2020 at 9 o’clock in the fore noon to hear the directions by the court on how this matter will further be dealt out with,” reads the notice which Supreme and High Courts Registrar Agnes Patemba confirmed.
This corruption-related case involved the procurement of maize from Zambia in 2016— allegations which cost Chaponda his ministerial position and political popularity.
Chaponda, who is legislator for Mulanje South West, was arrested on July 19 2017, five months after President Peter Mutharika fired him from Cabinet as minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development due to public pressure on his alleged role in the controversial procurement of maize from Zambia.
He was answering to three charges of giving false information to ACB, possession of foreign currency and attempting to obtain an advantage by instructing former Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe to offer a contract to Transglobe Produce Export Limited, but the State only appealed against the first two counts.
Zomba chief resident magistrate Paul Chiotcha acquitted Chaponda on May 18 2018, after quashing all evidence presented by the graft-busting body in support of the counts, arguing they lacked elements of corruption.
Eight months after walking to freedom, Chaponda was back in court following ACB’s appeal. But the appeal was not heard when the matter came before Justice Kapindu because Chaponda’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho raised preliminary objections, including the legality of indicating notice of intention to appeal after 10 days.
In an earlier interview, Chokhotho said: “According to what the law says, practically, in the circumstances of this matter, there is no appeal because the application was brought to the court outside the prescribed time.”
But ACB director general Reyneck Matemba, in another interview, said according to the ruling, the magistrate court gave the State 30 days within which to appeal the case and “indeed we appealed within the 30 days”.
“But the defence is arguing that we should have appealed within 10 days so we argued our case and depending on the court’s ruling, that’s when we will know the way forward on the case,” he said.
With these arguments on the table, the Justice Kapindu is likely to provide directions on how the case should proceed.