By CHINTU MALAMBO
THE Anti-Corruption Commission has failed to prove its case of abuse of authority of office against former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha and his former Permanent Secretary Sam Phiri.
This is after the Lusaka High Court vindicated Lt-Gen Shikapwasha and Dr Phiri on the charges of abuse of authority of office levelled against them in relation to a defamatory documentary programme that was being aired on ZNBC sometime in 2010, dubbed “Stand up for Zambia.”
In this matter, the ACC and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had appealed against the acquittal of Lt-Gen Shikapwasha in his capacity as former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Service and his former permanent secretary Dr Phiri of the charge of abuse of authority of office.
The State appealed to the High Court against the judgment of Magistrate Obister Musukwa which set the two men at liberty.
High Court judge Elita Mwikisa sitting with two other High Court judges declined to interfere with the acquittal by the Magistrate’s Court and dismissed the appeal in its entirety.
In considering the appeal, the High Court said there was deficiency of evidence to link Lt-Gen Shikapwasha and Dr Phiri to the offences relating to the airing of the programme and that failure by the State to prove that they had anything to do with the programme gives reasonable doubt as to whether they committed the acts alleged.
The High Court said the court below could not be faulted for having concluded that the State had failed to establish the ingredients of the subject offences in any of its counts.
“Having already outlined the inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence when we discussed the first ground of appeal, this ground subsequently has no limb to stand on. We thus dismiss the appeal as baseless,” the court said.
According to the grounds of appeal, the ACC and the DPP contended that the trial court erred in law by acquitting the duo when there was overwhelming evidence on record to satisfy all the ingredients of the offences charged.
It is also argued in the second ground of appeal that the trial magistrate erred in law when he found that the prosecution’s evidence was unreliable and full of inconsistencies.
Ndola principal resident magistrate Musukwa, sitting in Lusaka, acquitted Lt Gen Shikapwasha and Dr Phiri of the charges, saying the prosecution had failed to prove its case against them.
Mr Musukwa, however, slapped a two-year jail sentence with hard labour on freelance journalist Chanda Chimba III (now deceased) for producing a defamatory documentary dubbed: Stand Up for Zambia and disposing of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Lt-Gen Shikapwasha, Dr Phiri and Chimba were jointly charged with abuse of authority of office, unlawful publication and possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
By CHINTU MALAMBO