Two more lawyers representing former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda have discharged themselves from the Zambia maize purchase case in which he is accused of corruption.
The lawyers are Jai Banda and Madalitso Mmeta. Banda was also representing Chaponda’s co-accused Rashid Tayub, one of the directors at Transglobe Produce Export Limited.
In November last year lawyer Frank Mbeta also dumped Chaponda citing his tight schedule with other cases at the High Court.
Tamando Chokhotho, who has been the lead counsel for Chaponda, notified the court yesterday when proceedings of the case resumed before Blantyre chief resident magistrate Simeon Mdeza.
“I wish to notify the court that counsels Mmeta and Banda have ceased representing the first accused so I am the sole counsel representing the first accused,” he told the court.
Mmeta was not present in the court but Banda in an interview said he stopped representing Chaponda to avoid conflict of interest.
He said: “Tayub wants the matter to be tried separately so I thought there would be conflict of interest in the sense that both clients want different things so I had to choose one to represent.”
Earlier, Tayub’s lawyers brought an application in the court to have a split trial of the case arguing they believed it was in the best interest of their client and his businesses.
Lawyer Madalo Banda said they thought a split trial would expedite the case because unlike Chaponda, their client had few witnesses and if tried together proceed would drag.
However, State lead counsel Macmillan Chakhala indicated they were prepared to oppose the application for split trial because they were of the view that the facts that make the case between the first and second accused persons were connected.
The State also made an application for adjournment arguing that since the High Court was handling the judicial review of the matter, the magistrate court could not proceed hearing the case.
“Of what essence will the High Court determination be if it happens that it comes late and trial in the lower court has concluded? So we believe the lower court should not proceed hearing the case before a judicial review of the matter is determined at the High Court,” said Chakhala later in an interview.
Mdeza then adjourned the matter sine die to consider whether he had the jurisdiction to continue hearing the matter or any application after the case was committed to the High Court in November last year.
Chaponda, who is Mulanje West lawmaker and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president for Southern Region is answering to three charges which are giving false information to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while Tayub is answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position. They both pleaded not guilty.