The Zomba Magistrate’s Court has granted bail to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioner Linda Kunje and her driver Jones Tewesa in a case they are accused of criminal negligence contrary to Section 246 (a) of the Penal Code.
In her ruling yesterday, senior resident magistrate Hellen Chitsanzo Kachala granted the two bail and set January 29 2021 as the date to start trial.
The two are accused of defying traffic police orders to stop their vehicle and pave the way for President Lazarus Chakwera’s convoy pass as he travelled to Zomba to preside over a graduation last Thursday. The two were driving from Zomba to Blantyre.
During the hearing of bail application on Tuesday, both the State and the defence made oral submissions in support of their respective positions on the application.
Lawyer for the State, Louis Makiyi, said although bail is a constitutional right as per Section 42(2)(e) of the Malawi Constitution, the right is not absolute.
He submitted that they are still investigating the matter and the second accused Kunje) can influence witnesses in the case.
Makiyi also argued that both accused persons can evade trial, as was the case when police could not find her in all possible places despite the State issuing a warrant for Kunje on December 12.
Explained the lawyer: “The offence the two are answering is a serious one. The two were arrested after they failed to comply with the law. As such, it will not be in the interest of the State to grant them bail.”
But in reaction, defence lawyer Chimwemwe Kalua said it was clear from the State’s explanation that it was still investigating the matter and it would parade six witnesses.
He said: “However, there is no identity of the said witnesses; hence, there is no possibility that the two accused persons may interfere with the witnesses.”
Kalua also said Kunje surrendered herself to police and therefore, she cannot be a flight risk nor can the two evade trial.
He said: “The right to bail should not be used to punish the accused before they are proved guilty as the law presumes them to be innocent. Therefore, there is no basis for the two to be denied bail.”
In her ruling, Kachala ordered that the two be released on a K100 000 cash bail bond each and furnish the court with two satisfactory sureties, who must be blood relations and a K50 000 non-cash bond.
She further ordered the two to be reporting to Lilongwe Police Station fortnightly on Friday, surrender their travel documents, seek written permission from Lilongwe Police Station officer in-charge whenever they want to leave Lilongwe. They must also refrain from tampering with State witnesses and should not interfere with investigations.
The two were also ordered to avail themselves in court when the trial resumes in January