31 January 2013

Zambia: 'Amend Charge in Ex-Information PS Phiri's Case'

THE Lusaka magistrate's court has ordered the State to either amend the charge or substitute the entire charge sheet in a matter in which former Information Permanent Secretary Sam Phiri and three others are charged with corruption-related offences.

Phiri, former Zambia Daily Mail deputy managing director Davis Mataka, consultant Ngande Mwanajiti and the Zambian Newspaper Limited had asked the court to quash the first charge of corrupt acquisition of public property on their indictment.

They felt that there was duplicity to which the prosecution had conceded.

But Principal Magistrate Aridah Chuulu said the duplicity in the indictment did not warrant for the quashing of the count but that amending it would suffice.

Ms Chuulu said since the accused had not yet taken plea, they did not suffer any embarrassment of prejudice to warrant quashing of the count.

On the application made by Mwanajiti's lawyer Lillian Mushota on whether she was in a position to represent the Zambian Newspaper, the magistrate said either the lawyer or Mwanajiti could represent the newspaper.

She has since set February 4 this year as the date for plea.

Phiri, Mataka and Mwanajiti are in the first count charged with corrupt acquisition of public property and revenue.

The Zambian Newspaper Limited, which is the fourth accused is separately charged with unlawful printing and publication.

It is alleged in count one that Phiri, Mataka and Mwanajiti fraudulently diverted K202, 696, 050 Public Media Support Fund from the Ministry of Information for the production of a newspaper called The Zambian.

In the second count, Mataka, alias John Allan Mugwida, and Mwanajiti, alias George Banda, unlawfully published a newspaper called The Zambian, which was not registered with the National Archives Department.

The offences were committed between January 1, 2011 and November 1, the same year in Lusaka.

Meanwhile, Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda has recused himself from handling the matter involving former Information Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha and his co-accused persons.

Mr Banda, who was scheduled to deliver a ruling on whether Shikapwasha and Chanda Chimba III should be charged separately, said the matter would now be handled by Ndola-based magistrate Ketrin Maimbolwa Walubita, who had since been transferred to Lusaka.

Shikapwasha is jointly charged with his former permanent secretary, Phiri and Chimba III.

They were facing charges of abuse of authority of office, unlawful printing and possession of property suspected to be from proceeds of crime contrary to the Laws of Zambia.

The matter had been adjourned to February 12 this year for a fresh plea.

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