Lusaka Magistrate Rachael Mwansa has advised the State to consider a ‘plea bargain’ or reconciliation in the matter in which a 16-year-old juvenile and her auntie are facing one count of malicious damage to property worth K70 as it’s a misdemeanour.

The duo were on Monday last week discharged of the offence of idle and disorderly conduct in connection with how the 28-year-old auntie allegedly responded to a police officer over her niece’s ‘indecent dressing’, but had remained in custody for allegedly damaging police padlocks.

The circumstances that led to the arrest of the two last year has caused an uproar and different stakeholders have continued to express interest despite the previous case being discontinued.

Yesterday, various civil society organisations and youth activists gathered at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court to offer solidarity to the duo as they took plea to the new charge.

In this matter, Mirriam Mwanza and her juvenile niece are jointly-charged with the offence of malicious damage to property.

Particulars of the offence allege that on December 22, 2018, the duo jointly and whilst acting together wilfully and unlawfully damaged two padlocks valued at K70, property of the Zambia Police Service.

And when the matter came up for plea before Magistrate Mwansa, Monday, the duo pleaded not guilty.

However, Magistrate Mwansa advised the State and defence to consider a plea bargain and if that fails, go into reconciliation as she feels the offence the duo are charged with is a misdemeanour and they could not go into trial over K70.

A plea bargain is any agreement between the prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor.

The matter comes up on February 11 for possible trial.

And speaking after court, Action Aid Executive Director Nalucha Ziba said her organisation wanted to ensure that justice prevailed in the matter.

“We just want to ensure that justice prevails in the case because there are quite a number of things; we have the juvenile and the youth in this case who are both female and we are trying to see how the judicial processes and systems are facilitating for them to have a fair hearing and trial at the end of the day,” Ziba told journalists.

And NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale said it was in their interest to monitor the proceedings of the case because it was testing the justice system.

“As NGOCC, we are providing the solidarity to the young women. This is a case that is testing the justice system so it is in our interest as a movement to ensure that we monitor the proceedings. This is one case that will be of much focus for us especially with regards to justice for women and girls,” Mwale said.

Meanwhile, Zambia National Students Union (ZANASU) Finance and Investments Secretary Isiah Mambwe expressed sadness over the matter, saying the officer should have handled the case better than arresting the two.

“As ZANASU, we feel this case wasn’t well handled. There should have been a better way the officer should have done it. He should have probably spoken to the child and this shouldn’t have reached this far. We express sadness over this,” Mambwe said.

He agreed with the Magistrate’s suggestion for the parties to reconcile, saying reconciliation was the best direction.

Last week, the State discontinued the matter in which the accused persons were charged with idle and disorderly conduct allegedly in connection with how the juvenile’s auntie responded to a police officer over her niece’s dressing.

It was alleged that on the material day, the juvenile wore a short skirt and as she passed by Kamanga Police Station in the company of her auntie, and an officer asked her why she was wearing mini skirt.

But her auntie challenged the officer for allowing another person who was dressed in a similar manner to pass through earlier.

Her reaction to the police’s question allegedly led to the apprehension of the two.