Katima Mulilo-The teachers arrested on Tuesday for allegedly defrauding government of N$10 million were each granted bail in the amount of N$20,000 when they made their first appearance in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
The number of teachers who appeared in court was 20, with the police having arrested another person late Tuesday afternoon. However, the court only granted bail to 18 of the suspects, leaving the other two behind bars.
Those who were not granted bail are Boschof Masule and Frances Lisao, who are believed to have been the ones who facilitated the transactions. Masule is employed as an accountant at the finance department. Lisao previously worked in the same department as an accountant, but has long resigned.
The 18 teachers stand accused of fraud, money laundering, alternatively theft, and contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) by defrauding the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture between 2011 and 2016. Masule and Lisao face two extra charges of forgery and corruptly using their offices for gratification.
The State held that the amount of money involved was a great sum and argued that should they be granted bail they may interfere with ongoing investigations. During their first court appearance yesterday State Prosecutor George Matali proposed that the suspects be given bail of N$30,000 each.
Inonge Mainga, representing some of the accused persons, pleaded with the magistrate that the prosecutor’s proposed bail was too much. She argued that bail should not serve aspunishment, but should be granted to allow the accused persons to go out and return for trial.
Mainga also argued that given that they are teachers and their salaries are not that much, they might not be able to pay the bail amount proposed. She said although the amount in question was high, if broken down to how much each individual got it will not be that much.
Matali however objected to this line of reasoning.
He pointed out that although the State knew how much each individual got, they could not yet divulge such information before court. He, however, revealed that the lowest paid recieved N$222,000, while the highest paid received around N$570,000 between the period January 2012 and June 2016.
“The issue of their salary notch is out of our hands… What is crucial here is that the accused persons are being granted bail. We could have easily objected to bail, or we could have set it at N$100,000, because there is no fixed amount for bail,” Matali told the court.
It was after this deliberation that Magistrate Nomsa Kumalo granted the 18 accused persons bail of N$20,000 each. Among them is a retired teacher, an administrator and 16 are currently employed as teachers by the Education Ministry.
Bail was granted on condition that they cannot leave the Zambezi Region without notifying the investigating officers; that they do not go near the ministry’s salary office in Katima Mulilo; and that they do not interfere with state witnesses.
The case was then postponed to December 4 to allow room for further investigations, as it is believed more arrests will follow. The postponement also gives an opportunity to those who want to find their own legal representatives and those who want to apply for legal aid to do so.