LUSAKA High Court judge Wilfred Muma has sympathized with incarcerated former Family Health Trust executive director accused of murdering a 19-year-old woman over the several adjournments in the matter caused by his lawyers.
Judge Muma said he felt for the accused person, Benny Zulu, who had been in custody since last year as he was innocent until proven guilty.
He said this Thursday when he reluctantly adjourned the case to November 4, 2020, after the accused’s lawyers asked for an adjournment in the matter.
In this matter, Zulu is charged with murder.
Particulars of the offence allege that on July 9, 2019, in Lusaka, Zulu murdered Natasha Mukandawire.
Mkandawire’s lifeless body was discovered dumped in the outskirts of Lusaka after she was allegedly shot in Zulu’s car on Ngwerere Road.
Zulu, who denied the charge, explained to the police during investigations that he and Mkandawire had been attacked by robbers, who had shot her after knocking on the window of the motor vehicle they were in.
In November last year, judge Muma ordered a trial within trial to test the voluntariness of a warn and caution statement administered to Zulu.
But when the matter came up yesterday for continued trial within trial, State prosecutor Steven Mainza informed the court that the State was ready to proceed with two witnesses but added that the defence wanted to address the court.
Addressing the court, Chawezi Ngoma, a lawyer from Simeza, Sangwa Associates, asked for an adjournment as the lead counsel, Robert Simeza, was before the Court of Appeal in another matter.
But Justice Muma wondered why Ngoma could not proceed with the case since he had been assisting Simeza in the matter.
In response, Ngoma explained that Simeza wanted to have personal conduct of the matter, hence the request for an adjournment.
The State prosecutor said he had no objection to the application for an adjournment.
However, judge Muma said by requesting for several adjournments, the defence was putting the court in a predicament which would delay the case.
“You can see the predicament which you put the courts in, where courts are desirous to dispose of matters within good time. There shall be a cry at the end to say ‘this matter has taken long, the courts have not been disposing of matters’. Again, here is the court which is ready to sit,” judge Muma said.
He said the matter had been adjourned several times at the instance of the defence who had been giving excuses and hoped they would not cry foul when the case delayed further.
“I feel for the accused person who is in custody. Your [law] firm has several lawyers, you yourself are also a lawyer, why didn’t you take up the challenge? Accused, don’t cry at the end when you see this matter taking us to 2022 or 2023. I cannot push the trial but know the reason for the delay for trial each time we make adjournments. The courts are available, but lawyers,” said judge Muma who then adjourned the case to November 4, 2020.