The Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has acquitted Oracle Media proprietor Mutinta M’membe on one count of obstructing police officers, who went to her residence to execute a search warrant, in February last year.

And Mutinta has expressed gratitude that justice has finally prevailed.

Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Dr Fred M’membe says it’s embarrassing that police officers are being used for political gains by trying to frame a case of obstruction against an innocent lady.

In this matter, it was alleged that, Mutinta, a businesswoman and a resident of Rhodes Park in Lusaka, on February 15, 2017, obstructed police officers from lawfully executing a search warrant issued by the Magistrates’ Court.

When the matter came up for ruling, Monday, Magistrate Faides Hamaundu noted that the fact that the Mutinta had demanded for the presence of her lawyer before a search could be conducted at her house did not amount to obstruction.

“According to PW3, he said he was in the company of PW2 and PW4 when he wanted to search. He said when the accused arrived, he told her that he had come with a search warrant authorized by the Magistrate to search her house and the rest of the premises. He said the accused told him to wait for the presence of her lawyer and that they should wait from outside the premises. The question is when the accused told PW3 and his colleagues to wait for her lawyer before they could conduct a search, does this amount to obstruction or resistance? The answer is, it does not amount to obstruction or resistance,” Magistrate Hamaundu said.

And she said the search warrant, which was said to have been torn by the accused, was not defective because the information on the document was readable when it was presented in court.

“PW3 further said ‘while waiting for the accused lawyer, the accused asked for a search warrant’ which PW3 said he handed to her. He said after the accused got the search warrant, she ran towards the house. He said he went after her, but failed to catch up. PW3 said as the accused went to the door, she failed to open the door. If the accused failed to open the door to go in, then how did PW3 fail to catch up with the accused? PW1 said when the accused failed to open the door, she tore the document. The question I have to ask myself is, [that] was P2 (search warrant) defective when it got torn? The answer is no, because the information on the document that was presented before the court, the authentication and the stamp were readable,” she said.

Magistrate Hamaundu also observed that the video evidence, which was merely identified and not produced in court, did not show the accused tearing the warrant.

She acquitted the accused, saying vital evidence had been omitted.

“The arresting officer, PW4 said though the video is available, the part of the tearing of the document does not reflect. ID1 was the only independent evidence that would have collaborated the evidence of PW2, PW3 and 4. PW1 said he saw the accused tear the document, but his evidence is not supported by the actual happenings of ID1 (video evidence) in which he was merely identifying, but did not produce before court. After considering all evidence in this case, I find no good reason as to why PW1 omitted such vital evidence. I, therefore, acquit the accused accordingly,” ruled Magistrate Hamaundu.

And speaking after the ruling, Mutinta expressed gratitude that justice had finally taken its course.

She observed that Zambia still had challenges that needed to be overcome.

“Justice has taken its course. It’s been a long process [and] we are glad it’s over. But of course we still have challenges in this country that we need to overcome and the struggle does continue,” said Mutinta.

Meanwhile, her husband, Dr M’membe, said it was embarrassing that police officers were being used for political gains.

“It’s the total abuse of the police! They are using the police for their own political gains and it’s embarrassing! If they had a sense of shame they would feel very ashamed. Trying to frame a case for obstruction against an innocent lady, the Magistrate made it very clear of what happened,” said Dr M’membe.