THE matter in which former minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Ronnie Shikapwasha is charged with abuse of authority has taken a new twist, with one of his co-accused, Chanda Chimba applying to have one of his three counts amended to enable him take fresh plea.
Chimba, a freelance journalist, wants the Lusaka principal magistrate Obister Musukwa to invoke the provisions of the criminal procedure code (CPC) and order the State to amend the current indictment, saying it is defective, as he is charged with two offences in one count.
In this matter, Shikapwasha and his former permanent secretary Sam Phiri are charged with three counts of abuse of authority while Chimba is facing three counts of unlawful printing, publication and possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
With the State remaining with about three witnesses before closing its case, Chimba yesterday asked the court to order the State to amend count six of the indictment, saying it was defective.
If Chimba’s request succeeds, he would need to take fresh plea and the prosecution may be required to call back its witnesses to give fresh testimonies.
Chimba told Mr Musukwa through his defence lawyer Major Charles Lisita that the charge of him being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime had two counts in one and that if trial continued the way it was, he would be prejudiced.
Chimba said it was wrong for the State to place both allegations in one count.
He said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order the State to amend the charge against him so that he could take fresh plea in the matter.
Chimba said he had been charged with two issues of being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime and disposal of property, all in one count, when the section of the CPC under which he was charged did not define the issue of disposal.
He said there was need for the State to come out clearly on which of the two issues he was charged.
But Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) prosecutor Martin Mayembe objected to Chimba’s application, saying it was meant to waste the court’s time.
Mr Mayembe said it was unfortunate for Chimba to raise such an application at this stage, adding that the State was in compliance with the CPC provisions in drafting his charge.
He said that the charge slapped on Chimba was very clear and, as such there was no reason for the indictment to be amended as the accused would not be prejudiced in any way.
Mr Musukwa adjourned the matter to October 17 for ruling.
Meanwhie, the Supreme Court will hear Mufumbwe Member of Parliament Stephen Masumba’s bail application on October 27.
This means that Masumba, who has appealed to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision to uphold his 12-month jail term, will remain in prison.
Masumba on Friday appealed to the Supreme Court against High Court Judge Chalwe Mchenga’s decision to deny him bail pending appeal on grounds that his chances of succeeding were slim.
Masumba was convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment after he was found guilty of obtaining pecuniary advantage by false pretences in relation with a technician accounting diploma he erroneously got from the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA) and used it to earn employment for himself.
Times of Zambia