The fire tender protestors have finally pleaded not guilty to a charge of disobeying lawful orders before Lusaka magistrate Mwaka Mikalile.
And satirical singer Chama Fumba alias Pilato will remain remanded at Kamwala Remand Facility until May 21 when magistrate Mikalile will make a ruling on restoration of his bond.
In this case, Alliance for Community Action Laura Miti, PeP president Sean Tembo, Zambia Council for Social Development executive director Lewis Mwape, Pilato, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi, are charged with one count of disobeying lawful orders.
The accused were nabbed outside Parliament building in Lusaka on September 29, 2017 as they were protesting the purchase of 42 fire trucks for $42 million.
The case stalled for months as one of the accused, Pilato, had fled the country following death threats after he released a song called ‘Koswe Mumpoto’.
After several adjournments, magistrate Mikalile issued a bench warrant against Pilato and the singer was nabbed immediately after arriving from South Africa at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Wednesday.
And when the matter came up for mention, Thursday, magistrate Mikalile inquired from Pilato why he had been missing court sessions to which he replied that he had fled the country following death threats after the release of ‘Koswe Mumpoto’.
“I left the country when I thought my life threatened. This was after the release of the song ‘Koswe Mumpoto’. I used to receive phone calls, WhatsApp messages where I was told that I was going to be dealt with severly. They also sent me a video of individuals threatening me. I felt threatened and scared and that’s how I left the country. I was under the protection of Amnesty International. Amnesty International had writted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, I still have that letter,” he said.
“When I was leaving the country, there were no court appointments, only active threats on my life. I started seeing reports that I was running away from the police when I was running away from the people who were threatening me. I spoke to my lawyers and they advised me that I should come and share this part of my story.”
Pilato further explained that he used to attend court sessions last year but the matter never used to take off.
“Prior to that, we were arrested after a protest and asked to come to court in October. Myself and the others (protesters) came to court but we were told that the case was not yet in court and they asked us to come in November. In November we were told that the case was not yet in court. That the DPP had not not yet taken to court. And in December we had not received any court appointments,” explained Pilato.
Magistrate Mikalile then reminded Pilato that he was no longer on bond as it had been revoked but Pilato insisted that he came to Zambia on his own will and was not brought by the police.
And taking plea, all the six accused denied the charges.
Meanwhile Defense lawyer Keith Mweemba had made an application that Pilato’s bond be restored.
“The application is for this court to consider restoring the police bond of the third accused (Pilato) following the explanation that he has given the court and the evidence that has been given. This court has the power to restore the police bond considering the explanation and that he brought himself in the country. He will continue appearing in this court on each intended day,” he said.
Mweemba further said he would liaise with the relevant authorities to ensure that Pilato was protected.
However, the state objected to Mweemba’s application saying the evidence of the threats was not before the court and that Pilato should have sought protection from police instead of running away.
“The accused person has not demonstrated that he left this country because of the threats. The evidence is not before court. No evidence has been provided for his threats, not even to the police. If someone is being threatened, he needs to seek police protection which he never took. The defence says he will rehearse with the relevant authorities for his (Pilato’s) safety, that should have been done before he ran away. And there are no officials from Amnesty International to defend the said words by the accused. Therefore the court should not restore his bond,” they argued.
And in response, Mweemba said the evidence was already in custody of the court and that despite Pilato reporting the threats to the police, no action had been taken.
“We did tender not only the letter from Amnesty International but also a CD where the accused is being threatened which is in the custody of the court. And the letter from Amnesty supports the threats. Its the state’s duty to offer protection, guarantee the safety of both citizens and non citizens. And on the aspect of reporting to the police, inspite him reporting to the police there was no action so what was he supposed to do when the police did not act? And the accused has explained that he kept coming to court but the case was not yet ready,” he said.
Magistrate Mikalile reserved ruling to May 21 as the accused remains in custody.