The state Wednesday asked the Lilongwe Principal Resident Magistrate Court to commit the case involving top government officials in the Democratic Progressive Party-led administration to the High Court.
The officials are former chief secretary to the government and Judge Lloyd Muhara, former Cabinet ministers Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Charles Mchacha and Defence Ministry Secretary Bright Kumwembe
However, defence lawyers told Principal Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba that they were not in agreement with the idea; instead, they asked the court to release the suspects unconditionally.
But, like the first plea, the suggestion did not go well with Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lawyers, who objected to the same.
Muhara, Kaunda, Mchacha and Kumwembe are answering several charges in connection with the alleged purchasing of a piece of land— said to belong to the Department of Forestry at Kanjedza in Blantyre— by Mchacha.
Lawyer for Muhara and Mchacha, Chancy Gondwe, told the court that the defence had been informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had issued a committal warrant to commit the matter to the High Court.
The defence, however, argued against the submission by explaining that, currently, there was no person holding the DPP office because Steve Kayuni was yet to be confirmed by the Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament.
“The committal warrant that came was signed by the DPP, yet we don’t have the DPP at the moment. We have a vacancy in the office of the DPP. Therefore, they cannot act on behalf of someone who does not exist.
However, ACB Chief Legal and Prosecution Officer Victor Chiwala argued that Kayuni was still a State advocate.
He said the committal certificate was lawfully signed.
Gondwe also asked the court to release the suspects unconditionally because 14 days had elapsed since their arrest, yet there was no consent from the DPP.
He said, according to Section 42 (4) of the Corrupt Practices Act, if there is no such consent after 14 days, the accused— if on bail— is supposed to be released unconditionally or be granted bail if the accused has been on remand.
The four accused were arrested on separate days last year by the ACB in connection with the same land case, which, it is alleged, was bought at K30.5 million.
Nyimba has reserved his ruling to today.
He said he needed time to come up with a ruling on the two submissions because the issues which the two sides raised were important.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.