The treason case involving opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has continued to drag in the court as International media makes way into Zambia’s Capital to broadcast live developments from the Magistrates’ Court complex.

When the matter came up for ruling this morning, Magistrate David Simusamba who was reported ill and unable to make a ruling on Monday, adjourned the case to Friday without giving any reason.

This left UPND supporters and journalists puzzled because magistrate Simusamba spoke in his usual inaudible voice and the court attendees only saw him rise without realising what was going on.

Earlier, UPND lawyer Vincent Malambo complained to the court that police had detained two lawyers who wanted to gain access to the court premises.

“Two issues we would like to raise before your court. First borders on difficultly by both teams of lawyers appearing before you in accessing these premises. Second issue relates to the rights that the accused persons have to be visited by the friends and relatives in their place of confinement,” Malambo said.

HH’s wife Mutinta (l) with other sympathisers at court – picture by Tenson Mkhala

“Dealing with the first issue, this morning, accessing court by some of the lawyers has been particularly difficult. A very nasty example I would like to give you is a situation where two young lawyers trying to come to court were detained by police, placed in a police motor vehicle for them to be driven to Kabwata police for detention. Lawyers, a large part of the team, with the exemption of myself who was allowed to come in and park my vehicle inside, have been requested to park their vehicles outside on the road.”

He complained that police were not providing security to motor vehicles parked outside the court premises.

“There is a difficulty with that situation because the police are unlikely to protect those vehicles when they are parked outside in he event of any fracas around this court premises. It’s not that there’s no room inside, it’s just that the police wish that not to be the case. The concept of open court is symbolic that justice must be dispensed to the full glare of the public eye. Any attempts under the guise of security to prevent friends, relative and other members of the public to come and observe the conditions under which their friends, leaders and relatives are being tried, justice then is not dispensed,” said Malambo.

“Lawyers have the duty to perform in court, the prosecution team have the duty to perform in court and that must be facilitated and not hindered. What risk does a young lawyer pause to deserve the treatment these two young ladies received this morning? What is achieved by preventing defense counsel and prosecution counsel having access to court? Those in charge of our lives, those who give us access to these courts should explain to you why it is necessary to do what they are doing now. We want unrestricted access to these court premises.
This will enable us perform our responsibilities.”

He said it was unfortunate that the police had continued to harass lawyers even when magistrate Greenwell Malumani had ordered them to stop.

“This is not a new issue, we have raised it before. Your brother magistrate Malumani has given directives about access [to this court premise] that seem to have been ignored. We request that perhaps you address this issue again,” he said.

An Al Jazeera News crew sets up camera equipment outside the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court in Lusaka – Picture by Tenson Mkhala

And Malambo said HH and his co-accused should be allowed to get visits from friends and relatives.

“On the question of visitation rights that the prisoners are entitled to, each of these accused persons have relatives and friends and parents. I will give one example, of one of the accused persons whose parent is unable to see him in prison and has been unable to visit him in prison. The time they have is to visit him here. In Zambia, a prisoner cannot be denied visitation rights unless that prisoner has breached those rights. Prison regulations permits certain days on which on those days, any person wishing to visit has got right of access and see the condition of their relative. Counsel has the right to visit a prisoner at any time during working hours. These accused persons have other issues, other matters of which they are entitled to instruct counsel other than the counsel representing them in this matter. The prison system now permits only those lawyers on record in this matter to visit the accused persons,” said Malambo.

“Mr Hichilema has other issues which he needs to consult a lawyer and the same goes for every other accused person. We plead that the accused persons be allowed access to lawyers and not just lawyers in this matter. It’s their entitlement. We plead for two things, accused persons be allowed visitation rights by friends, relatives and others during normal visitation period and I plead that they be allowed access to counsel including lawyers who are not on record in this matter. Since this matter started, there has never been any incident of public misbehavior from the accused persons. The accused persons are now detained by the authority of the warrant of this court. This court has jurisdiction, power to give direction on how the accused persons who are in its custody should be treated.”

Magistrate Simusamba did not make a ruling but instead demanded to see the lawyers in his chambers.

Magistrate Simusamba did not make a ruling on the concern but instead demanded to see his lawyers and police in his chambers.

“I will see the counsel for both teams and the security in my chambers and I will incorporate this into my ruling on Friday,” said magistrate Simusamba.

Meanwhile a UPND supporter Rashid Masumba was bitten by a police dog outside the magistrate’s court.