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George Chaponda’s ‘maizegate’ case ruling today

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By Tiyese Monjeza:

The High Court in Zomba is today expected to deliver its ruling in a case where the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is challenging the Chief Resident Magistrate’s (CRM) Court’s decision to acquit former minister of Agriculture George Chaponda in the Zambian maize purchase scandal.

ACB in 2018 charged Chaponda with perjury, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and illegal possession of foreign currency before then Zomba CRM Paul Chiotcha ruled that the politician had no case to answer in relation to all the three counts.

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Chiotcha said the state failed to provide enough evidence on the matter. But ACB presented six grounds for the appeal before High Court judge Redson Kapindu.

Through its lead lawyer Imran Saidi, the graft-busting argued that, among others, the permit to possess foreign currency which Chaponda had was questionable as it did not have an expiry date and that he also lied that the money which was found in his possession at that time belonged to Democratic People Party.

But, among others, Chaponda’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho argued that the state is only allowed to appeal on points of law and not facts “as findings by the magistrate’s court are final”.

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“According to Section 52(a) of the Corrupt Practices Act, the prosecutors from ACB can only appeal in relation to offences under the Corrupt Practices Act and not any other offences. In this case, they are raising issues in relation to Exchange Control Act which is erroneous,” Chokhotho said.

He also wondered why ACB was interested in appealing when apparently the Corrupt Practices Act only gives the mandate to the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal such cases.

Having heard the oral submissions yesterday, Kapindu is expected to either rule that the case should resume at a magistrate’s court, continue at the High Court—if he overturns Chiotcha’s ruling—or dismiss the appeal altogether.

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