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Court suspends Principal Secretaries sentencing

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The High Court in Lilongwe has suspended sentencing of Principal Secretary for Agriculture Grey Nyandule-Phiri and Secretary to Treasury Cliff Chiunda until the court hears an application which the two have filed to the court.

Lawyer representing the PSs, Chancy Gondwe said they applied to have the contempt case heard again in order for the court to hear the sides of the two before delivering the sentence.

The court has set August 19 2019 to determine the application.

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Last week, the two were found guilty of contempt of court for disrespecting a court order in connection to the procurement and disposal of farm equipment bought using $50 million (about K37 billion) loan.

The PSs appeared before the court Monday but the case was heard in chamber.

Gondwe said the court, in the interest of justice, allowed the application for the PSs to be heard.

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“The application was, actually, for a stay on the hearing of the sentencing pending the rehearing of the matter because hearing of the case took place in the absence of the two Principal secretaries. We have made that application to the court and the court listened to the arguments,” he said.

Recently, presiding Judge Charles Mkandawire reserved ruling on the contempt of court application by the Ombudsman against ministers of Finance and Agriculture on the order by the Supreme Court which upheld one of the directives by Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma, investigation report indicating that the ministries should apologise to Malawians over the manner in which the equipment was sold off.

The Supreme Court ordered on February 22 2019 that the Ombudsman had jurisdiction to investigate the scandal, commonly called Tractorgate, and that the two ministries should apologise in the daily papers for 21 days.

The government sold tractors to politicians and high-ranking officials at a cheaper price.

Meanwhile, the two PSs released a public apology in the local press.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance would like to sincerely apologise to the nation for what happened during the previous administration with regard to the irregularities on the purchase of farm equipment with archaic technology and the subsequent disposal of 177 Sonalika tractors,” part of the apology reads.

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