Former Land, Housing and Urban Development minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda appeared in court yesterday in connection with the illegal purchase of land by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the Southern Region, Charles Mchacha.
He is also being accused of corrupting a journalist in an effort to stop him from publishing a story on the same land deal. Kaunda, clad in a grey suit and escorted by relatives, friends, and DPP sympathisers, appeared before Principal Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba in Lilongwe, where the court read two counts to him.
The offences are corrupt transaction with a private individual and abuse of office, both related to the case in which Mchacha allegedly illegally purchased about 1.2 hectares of land belonging to the Forestry Department in Kanjedza, Blantyre.
In the first count, the accused allegedly sent K50,000 through Airtel Money to Nation Publications Limited journalist Bobby Kabango on January 28 2020 in an effort to stop him from publishing a story concerning the illegal sale of the land.
In the second count, Kaunda is suspected to have abused his power as the then Land minister to affect the reduction of the land price at Kanjedza from about K89 million to about K31 million.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lawyer Benjamin Manganja told the court that the bureau was yet to obtain
consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions; as a result, the suspect did not take a plea. Lawyer for the accused, Chimwemwe Sikwese, asked the court to grant Vuwa Kaunda bail before Nyimba adjourned the case to January 6 next year.
“Today we were just being informed about the reasons for the arrest. He has not been charged,” Sikwese told reporters.
Bail conditions are that he pays K500,000 cash, be reporting to ACB on Friday every fortnight and surrender his passport. The 55-year-old DPP legislator was arrested by the ACB on Tuesday. ACB Director General Reneck Matemba has also told the media that a warrant of arrest has been obtained for former chief secretary to the Office of President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara. Muhara, a High Court judge, is currently in the United States and Matemba said he would inform the judge of the warrant of arrest.