10 January 2013

Zambia: MMD Spin Doctors Caged

FORMER Information minister Ronnie Shikapwasha, MMD propagandist Chanda Chimba III and two others were yesterday arrested and briefly locked up over alleged abuse of close to KR700,000 (700 million) public funds.

Others arrested are former Zambia Daily Mail deputy managing director Davis Mataka and Ng'ande Mwanajiti, a consultant, who is accused of diverting KR195, 000 (K195 million) Public Media Support Fund from the Ministry of Information.

They were released on police bond after being detained at Woodlands Police Station.

Former Permanent Secretary in the ministry Sam Phiri, who is also facing abuse of office charges, did not report as he was reported out of the country.

The funds were allegedly channelled for the unlawful production of a private newspaper 'The Zambian' without being registered with the National Archives Department.

The three were earlier summoned by the investigative wings in Woodlands where they were interrogated before being ferried to Woodlands Police Station for formal arrest.

The trio, except for Mr Mataka, arrived between 10:00 hours and 10:30 at the Taskforce offices in the company of their lawyers.

Upon arrival at Woodlands Police Station, they were ordered to take off their shoes and other valuables except for Gen Shikapwasha.

A nervous Mr Chimba III started negotiations with investigators, who seemed to be in no compromising mood but softened a bit to allow him to converse with them privately.

At that point Gen Shikapwasha was taken to a different room for further questioning and only reappeared after 30 minutes and was instructed to take off his belt, neck tie, wrist-watch and shoes.

Gen Shikapwasha was then led to a holding cell where he joined Mr Mwanajiti, and was followed by Mr Chimba III.

Mr Mataka arrived later and was also ushered into the cell.

Investigative wings spokesperson Namukolo Kasumpa later released a statement indicating details of the charges.

Gen Shikapwasha was arrested for two counts of abuse of authority of office, while Mr Chimba III was arrested for two counts of unlawful publication and possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime.

It is alleged that the former minister under the MMD administration arbitrarily directed the board and management at Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) to air the 'Stand Up for Zambia' documentaries.

In the second count, he committed the Government to pay all liabilities and legal fees emanating from the broadcast of the programme.

As for Mr Chimba III, he was charged with causing to print or publishing newspapers called 'Stand Up for Zambia' and 'News of our Time' which were not registered with National Archives of Zambia.

He was found in possession or control of an accumulated KR611, 440 (K611, 440, 433.12), money he paid for private media and printing services to ZNBC, Muvi Television and the Zambia Daily Mail Newspapers, which was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

Mr Mataka and Mr Mwanajiti had been jointly charged for corrupt acquisition of public property and revenue and unlawful printing and publication.

"Particulars of the offence being that The Zambian Newspaper Limited, Davis Mataka alias 'John Allan Mugwida' and Mr Mwanajiti alias 'George Banda' did fraudulently divert K195 million Public Media Support Fund from the Ministry of Information for the unlawful production of a private newspaper called The Zambian, without it being registered with the director at the National Archives Department," Ms Kasumpa said.

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