THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has cautioned parties in a case in which Amos Chanda and two others are charged with using insulting language and obstructing Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officers to desist from intimidating witnesses.
This was after lawyers representing Chanda and his co-accused complained to the court that some defence witnesses were allegedly intimidated by the arresting officer.
Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Dominic Makalicha found Chanda, his wife Mable and sister-in-law Ruth Mulenga, with a case to answer in the matter in which they are charged with three counts of using insulting language and obstructing Anti-Corruption Commission officers.
The accused are alleged to have insulted and obstructed the officers when they went to conduct searches at Chanda’s premises.
Mable was the first defence witness.
In her defence, Amos’ wife denied insulting and obstructing the officers from conducting their duties.
She told the court that as far as she was concerned, there was no use of insulting language when ACC officers searched the couple’s bedroom and that nobody was obstructed as claimed by the commission.
When Lusaka businessman Musonda Mulenga, who is also Ruth’s husband, was called to the stand, Wednesday, he told the court that he felt intimidated, and wanted the court to address the issue.
At this point, one of the defence lawyers, Joseph Chirwa submitted to the court that the defence had an application to make and it involved the interference of witnesses by the arresting officer, Joseph Mbewe.
Chirwa submitted to the court that the conduct of the arresting officer was contemptuous and was committed in the face of the court.
He claimed that the officer allegedly tried to fish out who the witnesses were in the matter, and attempted to intimidate the witnesses within the court premises.
“We feel that this is an act of desperation aimed at circumventing the course of justice. We want the court to pronounce itself on the issue as we have two witnesses that we are ready to call to testify to that effect. As officers of the court, we felt duty-bound to inform the court about it. Our instructions are that we bring this matter to the attention of the court. That said your worship, we are ready to call the witnesses as the contempt was committed in the face of the court and should be discharged in the face of the court,” Chirwa said.
But the State, through ACC prosecutors Martin Mayembe and Daniel Ngwira urged the court to dismiss the application.
In his ruling, magistrate Makalicha guided that contempt in face of the court was supposed to be dealt with there and then and further advised the parties to desist from intimidating each other.
He also advised the parties to respect each other.
“For now, [I] will not deal with issues of contempt. If at all it is happening let us stop. Let us be fair and respect each other but defence, if it happens again let me know,” magistrate Makalicha said.
Earlier, the State had raised an issue when Mulenga was called to the stand, urging the court to be careful with the weight it would attach to Mulenga’s evidence on grounds that he had been sitting in court whilst other witnesses were testifying.
But the defence lawyers argued that during trial, Mulenga was always advised to sit outside the courtroom when other witnesses were on stand.
Magistrate Makalicha dismissed the application and allowed Mulenga to testify.
Mulenga went on to testify that on October 27, 2021, he was called by the occupant of one of the houses ACC was searching in Woodlands to go and witness the search of her house as she was on the Copperbelt.
Mulenga said Brenda Nakaundi, the sister to Chanda’s wife was the occupant of the second house which was searched within the premises where Chanda’s house is situated.
He said his wife (Ruth) did not insult anyone as alleged.