Lusaka Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile has set January 18 as a date for pleas in a case involving former Information and Broadcasting Minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha, 65, and Chanda Chimba III, 56, a journalist popularly known for his “Stand Up for Zambia” documentaries on ZNBC which were critical of Michael Sata when he was an opposition candidate. The hearing will also include former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Dr. Samson Phiri, aged 48.
The accused could not take plea today when the matter came up, as the third defendant, Dr. Phiri, was reported to be out of the country.
The arrests of these three journalists and two former government officials was strongly condemned by rights groups, such as the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights, which described the arrests and charges as “politically motivated.”
General Shikapwasha was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of Abuse of Office contrary to section 99 (1) of the penal code chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia together with Dr. Phiri.
Particulars of the offences are unknown but the prosecution is expected to argue that the production of “Stand Up for Zambia” was unlawful under Zambia’s defamation laws.
It is alleged that Dr. Phiri on dates unknown but between June 1 and July 31, 2011 in Lusaka, being a public officer arbitrarily did direct ZNBC to repeat the broadcast of Chanda Chimba’s documentary “Stand up for Zambia” at no fee, an act prejudicial to the rights and interests of ZNBC, a public body.
Chanda Chimba III is facing two counts of unlawful printing and publication contrary to section 5 (1) of chapter 161 of the laws of Zambia.
Particulars of the offences are that between June 9 and July 28, 2011 and August 25 and September 26, 2011 respectively, Chanda Chimba III unlawfully did cause to be printed or published a newspaper “Stand up for Zambia” which was not registered at the office of the Director of National Achieves of Zambia.
It is further alleged that Chanda Chimba III unlawfully published a newspaper “News of our Times” which was not registered at the office of the Director of National Achieves of Zambia.
In the last count, Chanda Chimba III is charged with an offence of possession of property suspected to be proceeds of a crime contrary to section 71 of the Forfeiture of Proceeds and Crime Act No. 19 of 2010 of the Laws of Zambia.
It is alleged that on dates unknown but between June 9 and September 16, 2011, while in Lusaka Chanda Chimba III did have in possession or control an accumulated total of K611,440,433.12 money he paid for his private media and printing services to ZNBC, Muvi television and Zambia Daily Mail Limited respectively, money which was alleged to be “proceeds of crime” although the “crime” in question was not defined.
Meanwhile, Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda, has adjourned the matter involving former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Dr. Samson Phiri, former Zambia Daily Mail Deputy Managing Director, Davies Mataka, former Afronet Executive Director, Ngande Mwanajiti and the Zambian Newspapers Limited to January 16 for plea as the magistrate who was scheduled to take over the matter was reported to be out on duty.