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Court rebuffs Jean Mathanga, others

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The High Court sitting in Blantyre has dismissed the application by former Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Board Chairperson Jean Mathanga and three others, who wanted the court to stop hearing the case they are facing.

In July last year, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials arrested Mathanga, John Kandulu, Fanuel Nkhono and Emilius Kandapo in connection with a corruption investigation at Escom.

The four are answering multiple offences under the Penal Code and the Corrupt Practices Act. They include neglecting official duties and abuse of public office.

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However, the four raised preliminary objections against the hearing, saying they could not face the charges in question because Escom is not a public body and they, too, were not public officers.

The four argued that Escom ceased to be a public body when it was incorporated in 1998.

But High Court Judge Sylvester Kalembera has ruled that Escom is a public body and hearing of the case will continue.

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“All in all, Escom Limited is a State-owned company, hence a public body. Being a public body, its employees are public officers in so far as the Penal Code and Corrupt Practices Act are concerned. So too members of its board are public officers.

“Preliminary objections raised herein are therefore overruled and dismissed in their entirety. The trial of the accused persons shall proceed. The matter is therefore adjourned to the 9th – 12th of June 2021 for hearing,” the ruling reads.

Kalembera said the fact that number plates on Escom’s vehicles have SC, standing for Statutory Corporation, and that its board is appointed by the President, means that the company remains a public entity.

“I further take judicial notice of advertisement on Escom Limited Executive vacancies flighted in The Nation and The Daily Times of 8 March 2021 which required the interested applicants to direct their applications to the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations.

“This augments the fact that despite the said Escom being incorporated under the Companies Act, as a private limited company, it has remained and still operates as a statutory corporation. It is a State-owned company using public funds,” Kalembera ruled.

In the case, Mathanga is facing the charge of neglecting official duty and, during investigations, giving false information into the misprocurement of goods worth K4 billion at Escom.

Nkhono and Kandapo are answering the charge of abuse of office while Kandulu is being accused of influencing an officer to perform her duties corruptly.

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