A suspended Lusaka magistrate, Maggie Tantameni Kunda has asked the court to refer her case to the Constitutional Court in order for it to determine whether she can be tried by a court of equal jurisdiction.
In this matter, Tantameni is jointly charged with Felix Mkandawire a court interpreter, Francis
Mphanza, a senior public prosecutor and Didie Kangwa a senior clerk of court with three counts of abuse of authority, removal of property under lawful seizure and stealing by persons in public service.
In count one, it is alleged that Tantameni and Mphanza on November 8, last year, in Lusaka being persons employed in the public service as margistrate and senior public prosecutor respectively, jointly and whilst acting together, did use the position of their respective offices to obtain property, profit or benefit for themselves or another.
In count two, it is alleged that Mkandawire, Mphanza and Kangwa on November 8, last year in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together knowingly and with intent to hinder or defeat the process, did conceal 34.0 kilograms of ephedrine valued at K1, 870. 000. The ephedrine was taken under the process of authority of the court of Tantameni.
And in the third count, it is alleged that Mkandawire,Mphanza, Tantameni and Kangwa between November 8, 2017 and December 30, 2017 in Lusaka, being employed in the public service as court interpreter, senior public prosecutor, magistrate and senior clerk of court respectively, jointly and whilst acting together did steal 34. 0 kilograms of ephedrine. The drug was valued at K1, 870.000 the property of Government of the Republic of Zambia which came into their possession by virtue of their employment.
And when the matter came up for plea before a Chisamba based magistrate Susan Mangalashi, Tuesday, Tantameni, through her lawyer Prosper Muyatwa, submitted that the Constitutional Court should render its opinion on whether the principal resident magistrate Kenneth Mulife, who is the complainant in this matter on behalf of the Judiciary, can allocate the case to magistrate Mangalashi, who is also a magistrate like her.
“This honourable court has similar authority as accused number three and for this court to try A3 on matters she dwelt with during the course of her duties as a magistrate will be a gross assault to the course of justice,” he said.
Muyatwa said Mangalashi was not in a position to impartially and justiciably dispense justice to try Tantameni in the state she was in.
He added that it was a serious misdirection because her immunity must first be lifted, which process he said must be moved by the prosecution pursuant to the correct section of the law and the court of competent jurisdiction because immunity was a Constitional issue.
“As it stands A3 is a constituted magistrate who only happens to be on suspension and Section 7 of the Sub Court Act applies to her in the sense that all magistrates exercise equal jurisdiction,” he said.
And Muyatwa said the case against his client should have been disposed off through a disciplinary process because it was embarrassing to prosecute a sitting magistrate.
He hoped that the order to refer the case to the Constitutional Court could be granted so that the ends of justice could be secured.
Meanwhile, the prosecution applied to have the case adjourned to enable them respond to the submissions.
The matter has been adjourned to October 10, 2018.