Fri, 18 Nov 2016 13:36:53 +0000
POPULAR musician and community leader Michael Chanda has been returned to Kamwala Remand Prison after being held for more than 10 days at Kabwata police station, supporters have confirmed. Mr Chanda was first arrested on 23rd June along with 18 of his fellow Rastafarians as they prepared for a concert celebrating the birth of the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie.
The raid by heavily armed Drug Enforcement Commission officers took place on the Ng’ombe farm owned by Mr Chanda, who is also the leader of renowned reggae band Them I-N-I. The Rastafarians were held in remand for more than four months and their case postponed 13 times as witnesses and lawyers failed to show up in court. Finally on 4 November the Director of Public Prosecutions issued instructions to DEC to enter a nolle prosequi and drop the charges.
For unknown reasons, DEC rearrested Mr Chanda as he was leaving the Lusaka Magistrates Court, while the other 18 were allowed to go. At a court appearance on Monday, Mr Chanda pleaded not guilty and is expected to reappear in court for trial on 24th November. DEC has failed to clarify why they held Mr Chanda at Kabwata police station for 10 days, only saying that now that the defendant had pleaded not guilty he was transferred to Kamwala. Following his re-arrest, Mr Chanda was charged with “trafficking in psychotropic substances and permitting premises to be used for narcotic or psychotropic substances”, according to DEC spokesperson Theresa Katongo.
However, DEC failed to explain why they disregarded the DPP instructions and overturned the nolle by re-arresting Mr Chanda, only stating that “a nolle isn’t an acquittal, a person can be re-arrested,” according to Ms Katongo. Supporters of Mr Chanda insist that DEC is continuing to hold the defendant in order extort money from them in return for his release. The other Rastas who were released have similarly complained that as at now they have not received the phones and monies that were confiscated by DEC.