Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda has reallocated the abuse of authority case involving former Information and Broadcasting minister Ronnie Shikapwasha, his former Permanent Secretary Samson Phiri and Journalist Chanda Chimba III to Magistrate Catherine Walubita of Ndola.
Recently two Lusaka magistrates, Mwaka Mikalile and Aridah Chuulu, recused themselves from handling the politically sensitive case.
Since the announcement of the arrests of the government-critical journalists and former information minister, numerous civil society groups have denounced the arrests as unlawful and politically motivated.
Magistrate Banda said this morning when the matter came up that ruling on the submissions made by the two parties could not be made because a new magistrate who had recently been transfered from Ndola had taken over the matter.
During the last sitting, defence lawyer Major Lisita applied to have his client Chanda Chimba III charged alone on a separate indictment as opposed to having him charged along with Lieutenant General Shikapwasha and Dr. Phiri.
However, the state prosecution team argued the three accused persons were facing offences that were inter linked in some way thereby it was correct to have them charged from one indictment.
The prosecution team argued that the defence team would understand the link in the charges when trial begins in the matter.
At this point, Magistrate Banda ordered the two parties to submit their arguments in written before the three accused persons could proceed in taking plea.
Magistrate Banda has since adjourned the matter to February 12, this year and it will be heard by magistrate Walubita.
Lt. Gen. Shikapwasha, Dr. Phiri and Mr. Chimba are facing charges of abuse of authority, unlawful printing and publication and being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.