The case involving the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker for Mzimba Hora Constituency Christopher Mzomera Ngwira has been adjourned to July 25, 2018 for ruling on whether he has a case to answer.
Ngwira who was arrested in January this year by the country’s graft-busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is alleged to have fraudulently influenced the awarding of the contract for the construction of Lukwelukwe Teacher’s House project under the Local Development Fund (LDF) and misappropriated MK650 000 meant for the project in 2010. He has denied the allegations.
The Member of Parliament appeared before the court on Wednesday for further hearing where ACB lawyers paraded three remaining witnesses that remained from the first hearing and that concluded the case on the side of ACB.
Following the closure of the case by the state, Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Kandulu asked lawyers for both sides whether they intend to make submissions before he make his ruling on whether Ngwira has a case to answer or not to which both parties expressed intent to do so.
Defense lawyer Victor Gondwe asked the court to give him 21 days to make submissions while ACB lawyers asked for 14 days after the defense had submitted their submissions.
Kandulu accepted both parties request and he indicated that he will also require 14 days from the day all the submissions will be submitted for him to write his ruling saying as such the case will be back for ruling on the 25th of next month.
Ngwira remains on bail having been granted bail the same day he was arrested by the Mzimba First Grade Magistrate George Longwe with a surety of MK50, 000.
According to the press statement ACB released soon after Ngwira was arrested in January, on the 7th September, 2010 bureau received an allegation that Christopher Mzomera Ngwira MP for Mzimba Hora Constituency presented invoices from YOGI and Mzimba Hardware on pretext that they had supplied building materials for Lukwelukwe School Project which is funded under LDF under M’mbelwa District Council.
The Anti- Corruption Bureau is said to have conducted investigations into the matter which established that Ngwira advised the Project Management Committee (PMC) members to sign blank withdrawal slips and told them not to indicate the total amount to be withdrawn and that he on his own indicated MK650, 000 on the withdraw form.
“Christopher Mzomera Ngwira is reasonably suspected to have committed an offence under Section 271 (2) (e) of the Penal Code in that he on 2nd August 2010 at NBS branch in Mzimba, converted for his own use money amounting to K650, 000 meant for Lukwelukwe Teacher’s House Project under the LDF programme,” reads part of the statement.
However, testimonies presented in court indicate that of the MK650, 000, MK520, 000 was returned by committee members who accepted before the then Director of Public works for M’mbelwa District Council Late Amon Chisimba to have wrongly withdrew the cash and promised to return it while over MK100, 000 was used to procure quarry for the project.
Further, testimonies indicate that construction materials meant to be procured with the cash in question were delivered at the project site only to be sent back by the PMC for being of low quality.
The timing of ACB to arrest Ngwira on the case which centres on events that happened eight years ago has been described by Ngwira’s supporters as a plot by the lawmaker’s political enemies who are bent on tarnishing his popularity among his constituents for the 2019 elections.
Ngwira is bidding to claim a third term as lawmaker for Mzimba Hora constituency on a DPP ticket but is facing competition from former member of parliament for the area Henry Mumba who is also bidding to reclaim the constituency on the DPP ticket. The two are expected to face each other during primaries to decide the party’s candidate for the constituency.