he Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe has set October 11 2022 to hear former presidential aide Chris Chaima Banda’s application for the court to discharge the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) fuel contracts case due to delays by the State to prosecute it within a reasonable time.
In an interview yesterday, Chaima Banda’s lawyer Wapona Kita confirmed the development saying the State has violated his client’s constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time.
Said Kita: “This is due to State witness Hellen Buluma’s unwillingness to appear in court for cross-examination on the evidence she gave.”
In an e-mailed response, ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala confirmed that the graft-busting body received the application and that they will object it.
In the case, former Energy minister Newton Kambala, Chaima Banda and Alliance for Democracy president Enock Chihana are accused of trying to influence a public officer in the procurement of fuel contrary to provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act.
In August last year, ACB arrested the trio for allegedly influencing the procurement of fuel through Nocma and were granted bail on August 11 2021.
During Buluma’s testimony in June this year, the court played an audio recording of the conversation between her and Chaima-Banda. The former presidential aide is quoted as having said that the President had settled for a company called Finergy to be one of the suppliers of fuel to Nocma.
The audio was played following a ruling by High Court of Malawi judge Patrick Chirwa, who is hearing the matter wearing his old hat as chief resident magistrate.
In the ruling, he said the recordings can be played as part of evidence since the right to privacy is not absolute as it is limited, reasonable and necessary in an open and democratic society.
Chaima-Banda claimed in the audio that Chakwera had vested interest in the fuel deals because he wanted to ensure that Malawians benefitted from the contracts through corporate social responsibility.
He is quoted in the recording: “The President wants to wedge a war against a cartel that is involved in fuel business; those people looking for money will fail because we are looking for corporate social responsibility.
“I am the link and I am acting on behalf of the President while Enock Chihana is involved because he is deeply trusted by the President.”
In January this year, the State paraded its first witness Charles Mzinga, who is planning and research manager for Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) who explained to the court the public procurement process.