Former Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) director general Godfrey Itaye has pleaded not guilty to fraud and abuse of office charges.
Itaye appeared at the Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate Court Monday, alongside ex- Macra accountant Ben Chitsonga and former procurement officer Joseph Ngalawa, who entered the plea of not guilty.
The three were arrested on September 1 2020 on suspicion that they bought, using Macra funds, party regalia worth K8.5 million for the then governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during the campaign period.
During court proceedings, both State and defence lawyers told Senior Resident Magistrate Godfrey Balaka that the two suspects would face two charges of fraud and abuse of office, separately.
Itaye is being represented by Clement Mwala whereas Chitsonga and Ngalawa are being represented by Fostino Maele.
Following the accused’s not-guilty plea, Assistant State Advocate Dzikondianthu Malunda, who is the lead prosecutor in the case, said the State would parade seven witnesses.
“The case for Godfrey Itaye and the two others came for plea-taking today. The accused have all denied the charges levelled against them, so we will bring witnesses to prove the case against the accused persons,” he said.
Malunda also submitted that some changes be made to the bail conditions that the accused were subjected to on September 2 2020 after their arrest.
Among the conditions, Malunda asked that the three should report to State advocate chambers once every month; provide one surety to be bonded to K200,000 each; surrender travel documents to court as well as that the suspects should not travel outside the country without getting permission from the court.
“Our basis for making the application was simply to ensure that the case is administered efficiently. It is simply about case management so we can be assured that the accused persons will attend to matters related to hearing until the case is concluded,” he said.
However, Itaye’s lawyer, Mwala, argued against the State’s submission, indicating that there was no justification for the request.
He also bemoaned the State’s tendency of keeping case discoveries away from the defence. He said, for instance, that they were aware that five witnesses would testify against his client, expressing surprise that State lawyers were now saying they would parade seven witnesses to testify against Itaye.
Meanwhile, Balaka has set March 5 2021 for hearing of the case. He also stated that he will give a ruling of the State’s bail-conditions-variations request on the same date.