Former chief executive officer (CEO) for Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) charged with abuse of office and fraud yesterday failed to take plea arguing he did not understand some legal jargons of the charges leveled against him.
Among others, Magalasi is charged with abuse of authority of his office and that he used public funds and paid K10.5 million as accommodation for former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP officials at Kanjedza Lodge, Oasis Hotel and Heritage Serendib between July and August 2018.
Earlier Magalasi’s defence team applied to the court that presiding magistrate Shyreen Chirwa should recuse herself from the case for alleged bias. But when the magistrate dismissed the application, Magalasi asked for more time to be guided by his lawyer on the legal meaning of his charges.
Said Magalasi: “I am an economist and not a legal person, and I do not understand some of the terms of the charges. For example, what does abuse of office mean?”
Lawyer for the suspect Andrew Kaonga chipped in saying he had informed the court Magalasi had contacted a confirmed Covid-19 case—his son—which meant there was a possibility that he too could be Covid-19 positive. He then pleaded with the court for an adjournment to allow him to go for a test.
In her ruling, Chirwa granted the suspect and his lawyer their wishes and set Monday next week as the date to enter plea.
The magistrate also refused to recuse herself from handling the case following an earlier application by the defence that she had demonstrated bias by, among others, refusing the defence lawyer an adjournment on health grounds.
According to Chirwa, the allegations of bias were without evidence and did not suffice.
Kaonga had argued that his client may not face a fair trial alleging the magistrate seemed bent to proceed hearing the matter despite the serious health grounds.
The defence lawyer also questioned why the court ruled in favour of the State which allegedly had provided the defence team with court documents on short notice.
However, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Steven Kayuni who is the lead counsel for the State argued that the defence just wanted to buy more time.
Said Kayuni: “It is embarrassing to respond, but these are premonitions, the application has not been made, the defence is just full of imaginations. Let’s deal with the application before court and not an application which may never come.”