The High Court in Lilongwe yesterday reserved its ruling on an application by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) former chief executive officer Collins Magalasi’s lawyer Andy Kaonga to halt proceedings of a fraud and abuse of office case against his client.
Kaonga applied to the court to stay proceedings of the case in which Magalasi is being accused of using money from Mera to pay for immediate-past governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials’ accommodation.
The lawyer also wants the High Court to order a restart of the trial that was initially before the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court.
High Court Judge Annabel Mtalimanja has since reserved her ruling to a date to be set by the court.
In his affidavit, Kaonga argues that when the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court sat on April 20 2021, the State paraded a witness in his absence, saying at the time he was in Mzuzu for other court engagements.
He also stated that he is the only lawyer in his company handling criminal cases as other lawyers focus on civil cases. He said there was need for an adjournment and he wrote the court in advance seeking the same.
“By this time, I had dates of a matter I am prosecuting on behalf of the Reserve Bank of
Malawi in Mzuzu which was to be heard from the 19 to 23 April, 2021. This date having been set in December, 2020. I attach the notice of hearing as ‘AK1’.
“THAT upon receiving the notice of hearing and realising that the court in Mzuzu is set, I wrote a letter to the court informing it in advance of my predicament and seeking an adjournment. I attach copy of the letter,” reads the affidavit sworn by Kaonga.
He, therefore, asked to have proceedings to be halted and that there should be a restart of the trial.
“I pray that this court calls for the record from the lower court, stays further action on this case, reviews the tragic events of the 20th April 2021 and provides guidance on the order of superiority of the courts; as well pronounces that there should be a restart of the trial at the next sitting,” reads the affidavit further.
The State, in an affidavit by senior assistant chief State advocate Dzikondianthu Malunda, said Kaonga’s company has a number of lawyers that could have been delegated to represent him.
He added that the State also only paraded one witness who was not cross-examined, adding that was done to give Kaonga a chance to cross-examine the witness.
“Apart from counsel Kaonga, two other lawyers in his firm are capable of prosecuting and defending criminal matters. That, needless to say, counsel Kaonga, if he wanted, could have assigned or delegated one of the lawyers named in paragraph 8 above to handle one of the matters in question,” reads an affidavit by Malunda.
He also argued that the notice of hearing for the case that Kaonga went to handle in Mzuzu was issued in April 2021.
Magalasi is alleged to have sourced about K10.5 million from Mera to pay for accommodation of DPP officials in Blantyre where the party held a convention.
The money was allegedly obtained on the pretense that it would be used for Mera sensitisation campaigns.
Mera consumer affairs and public relations manager Fitina Khonje testified that she had no knowledge of the sensitisation campaigns that were claimed to have been conducted.
She said if there were such activities, she would have known as they fall under her office.