Lusaka Magistrate Nthandose Chabala has acquitted News Diggers! editor-in-chief Joseph Mwenda and reporter Zondiwe Mbewe, in a matter where PF cadre Chanoda Ngwira had dragged them to court for allegedly defaming Housing and Infrastructure Minister Ronald Chitotela and misrepresenting facts in a court matter.

This was after Ngwira told the court that he had decided to discontinue the case by way of withdrawal.

When the matter came up for possible plea, Tuesday, Chanoda informed the court that he had decided to withdraw the matter “in a spirit of reconciliation”.

“I would like to inform the court that after giving this matter a thought and in a spirit of reconciliation, I have henceforth decided that the matter be discontinued by way of a withdrawal,” said Chanoda.

Chanoda’s lawyer, Daina Kapitolo, also added by making an application to withdraw the matter pursuant to Section 201 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and prayed that the same was granted.

“We wish to make an application to withdraw, pursuant to Section 201 of the Criminal Procedure Code in light of the spirit of reconciliation. We pray that the same be granted,” she said.

In response, former Attorney General Musa Mwenye State Counsel, who was representing the accused persons, said he had no objection to the application but noted that if a withdrawal under section 201 was accepted by the court, it resulted in an acquittal.

“We have no objection. Section 201 of the Criminal Procedure Code permits the application to be made at any time before the final order is made. The withdrawal can be accepted by the court if its convinced that there are sufficient reasons. But we want to emphasise one point, that if a withdrawal under Section 201 is accepted by the court, it results in an acquittal,” said Mwenye.

In her ruling, magistrate Chabala granted the application and acquitted the accused persons.

“After hearing from both counsel and the complainant, I thereby grant the application. In accordance with Section 201 of the Criminal Procedure Code, I therefore acquit the accused persons. You have both been acquitted,” ruled magistrate Chabala.

In this case, Ngwira wanted Mbewe, Mwenda and News Diggers! to be tried and prosecuted for committing a criminal offence through the publication of an article, as first, second and third accused respectively.

According to the indictment, particulars of the offence were that on dates unknown but some time on or around 21st and 23rd of march 2019, Zondiwe Mbewe, Joseph Mwenda and News Diggers did cause to be published an article entitled “China Habour sent $299,985 to Chitotela’s lawyers, $140,000 went to Lungu C – FNB tells court” while proceedings involving the case of The People Vs Ronald Chitotela and four others were going on and active before Honourable Simusamba.