FORMER tourism minister Ronald Chitotela says investigative wings must fight corruption and not him, lamenting that he has been persecuted for too long and he is now tired.
And Chitotela says he needs peace, arguing that “akanyelele ngawakapimpila kalasuma (even an ant can bite if you provoke it)”.
Chitotela yesterday walked to freedom after the Economic and Financial Crimes Court discharged him owing to his settlement agreement with the ACC.
Lusaka magistrate Jennipher Bwalya ruled that proceeding with the matter while there was a settlement agreement in place would be subjecting Chitotela to some form of double jeopardy, which the laws in Zambia frown upon.
Chitotela had previously raised a preliminary issue, asking magistrate Bwalya to dismiss the matter he was recently arrested for, arguing that he could not be tried when there was a consent agreement entered with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
When the matter came up for a ruling, Wednesday, magistrate Bwalya discharged Chitotela after establishing that indeed, ACC committed not to institute criminal proceedings against him on similar charges after the parties entered a consent settlement.
She added that Chitotela was charged with the same charges in a matter where a consent settlement was entered, and could not be prosecuted on the same charges.
Magistrate Bwalya noted that the said settlement agreement was produced by the defence before her dated June 24, 2019, and it had a signature stamp of the Director General of the ACC and a signature stamp of the Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate.
She observed that in the settlement agreement, ACC made an undertaking not to conduct criminal proceedings against Chitotela, which read that “the accused person (Chitotela) having satisfied the requirement of the Anti Corruption Commission Act, the Anti-Corruption Commission hereby will not undertake any criminal proceedings in relation to the two counts”.
Magistrate Bwalya said the ACC did not dispute the content of the settlement agreement.
She added that the commission took into account the full and true disclosure and payment made by the accused person, and that there was no evidence before her to show that the said consent settlement was set aside through any judicial process or that it was subject to any review of the superior court.
“That being the case, I would agree with the defence that proceeding with the matter while the settlement agreement was issued would be subjecting the accused to some form of double jeopardy, which the laws in Zambia frown upon. I now find that the matter in which the accused is charged with is incompetent in line with the above law mentioned,” magistrate Bwalya ruled.
She, however, emphasised that the discharge did not in any way mean that she had acquitted the accused person.
“I, therefore, order that the accused person be discharged but this is just a mere discharge and not an acquittal,” said magistrate Bwalya.
And speaking after being discharged, Chitotela, who was in high spirits, and accompanied by his lawyer and sympathisers, told ACC to fight corruption and not him.
Asked if he viewed the entire process as mere persecution, the Pambashe PF MP responded in the affirmative.
“It is, and I think now I want to appeal to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the investigative wings, they must fight corruption, [do] not fight Chitotela. This is a clear demonstration that they are not fighting corruption, they are fighting individuals. They have been fighting me for a long time, nanaka (I’m tired). In Bemba we say akanyelele ngawakapimpila kalasuma (even an ant can bite if you provoke it). I’m tired, I want to appeal to them to fight corruption and not fight Chitotela,” he said.
Asked about the trend of politicians being prosecuted in the media before matters were taken to court, Chitotela insisted that he had been persecuted for too long and now needed peace.
“I have stated very clearly, where you have a system that is bent for personal persecution, this is the result. But God in Heaven is superior than all of us. I want to thank my wife, my children, the family members, the legal team and all members of parliament that have stood with me, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and all the body of Christ in Zambia that have been praying for me, sending messages of encouragement. But I knew that it is a process and it will pass. And I want to appeal that please let us respect the law. We declare ourselves to be a country that will be governed by the rule of law, so we must be able to respect the law. And I want to repeat, instead of investigating crime, we are pressing people and beginning investigating the people. That’s why I’m saying don’t fight Chitotela, fight corruption. If you want to fight Chitotela naine ndimuntu ndanaka (I am also human and I get tired). I think I have been persecuted for long, I need peace,” said Chitotela.
And Chitotela’s lawyer said the defence had been vindicated that the charge was unfounded.
“We are glad. We have received justice, as the court has pronounced itself. We are vindicated that the charge was unfounded. The law has been respected and we are humbled,” said the lawyer.