Pilato, others were peaceful during protest, officer testifies

Pilato, governance activist Laura Miti
Pilato, governance activist Laura Miti

A POLICE officer yesterday testified that musician Fumba Chama, aka Pilato, activist Laura Miti and four others were on September 29 last year peaceful when they went to protest against the purchase 42 gire tenders at Parliament building. In this case, Chama , Miti, who is Alliance for Community Action executive director, Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa, Zambia Council for Social Development executive director Lewis Mwape and Mika Mwambazi are charged with disobeying lawful orders, but they pleaded not guilty.

It is alleged that the accused persons on September 29, 2017 jointly and whilst acting together with other persons disobeyed lawful orders when they demonstrated against the purchase of 42 fire tenders by the government. During continued trial in the matter before principal resident magistrate Mwaka Mikalile, police officer Patience Chitonge, 30, said at first, Pilato and others were peaceful but later became stubborn and disregarded lawful orders.

She said this when she was cross examined by one of the defence lawyers Keith Mweemba. Chitonge said there was mini violence as they said they would not leave until they entered Parliament building as they said “it was too much of ‘them’ eating money”.

Chitonge said the accused were apprehended about 50 metres from the entrance to Parliament building near the junction of Parliament road and Great East road. She said it was a democratic right for people to demonstrate if they had permits. Chitonge said the accused were stopped from entering Parliament building because they were not invited.

“Your clients said they didn’t have invitation cards to enter Parliament,” she added.

Chitonge also said the junior officers acted on superior orders to apprehend the suspects. When put to her that Miti’s notification complied with the law, Chitonge responded in the affirmative. In Tembo’s notification to the police dated September 20, 2017 which Chitonge read in court, he had stated that his party was ready to provide marshals to ensure the procession was peaceful. Chitonge read the indictment and when asked that the particulars of the offence indicated that they disobeyed lawful orders, the witness said “yes there was a breach of law and order” but failed to answer whether “about to demonstrate” was a breach of law.

“The breach of law and order was that that group of people wanted to demonstrate and did not listen to orders that they go back where they came from,” she said.

Chitonge did not agree that the sitting down of demonstrators was not a sign of peace.

“It was a sign of stubbornness because they were told to go back but they refused and sat down,” she said.

And when further cross examined further by another defence lawyer Gilbert Phiri who asked if there was a demonstration at Parliament on September 29, 2017, the witness said no, adding that it was about to start. And in her evidence-in-chief, Chitonge narrated how she apprehended Miti after she insisted that she would enter Parliament despite her not having an invitation card. She said Miti did not want to listen to the orders of chief inspector Phiri.

Chitonge said on September 29 last year, she was deployed to do special duties at Parliament where there was budget presentation. She said the police officers were about 10 and her role was to maintain law and order. Chitonge said whilst she was on duty to man the junction of Parliament and Great East roads, around 13:00 hours, she saw a group of people carrying placards. She said chief inspector Phiri approached the group when they turned to join Parliament road.
Chitonge said the demonstrators, who were more than 10, insisted they wanted to go inside Parliament despite being stopped.

Another witness testified in the matter before it was adjourned to October 1

The Mast Online