Sat, 26 Nov 2016 13:46:59 +0000
The trial of Michael Chanda has been delayed yet again due to the absence of witnesses for the Drug Enforcement Commission, angering supporters who wondered how the justice system can work in Zambia. The popular musician and community leader appeared in front of Magistrate Ireen Wishimanga yesterday, looking exhausted and disappointed by the adjournment of his case until Thursday, 1 December.
This was the 15th delay in trial since Mr Chanda was apprehended five months ago. Mr Chanda was first arrested on 23 June along with 18 of his fellow Rastafarians as they prepared for a concert celebrating the birth of former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. Heavily armed DEC officers raided the N’gombe farm, owned by Mr Chanda, where the concert was to be held and arrested the Rastas, accusing them of cannabis possession.
The Rastas were held in Kamwala Remand Prison while their trial was delayed 13 times due to failure of witnesses and lawyers. On 4 November, the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered DEC to enter a nolle prosequi and drop the charges. However Mr Chanda was immediately rearrested and held for 10 days at Kabwata police station until being shifted back to Kamwala remand.
DEC has refused to explain why they rearrested Mr Chanda, stating only that “a nolle isn’t an acquittal, a person can be rearrested,” according to DEC spokesperson Theresa Katongo. Mr Chanda has pleaded not guilty to charges of “trafficking in psychotropic substances and permitting premises to be used for narcotic substances.” Supporters say that DEC rearrested Mr Chanda in order to extort more money from them for his release.
One supporter pointed out that DEC could confiscate Mr Chanda’s farm if he were to be found guilty. The 18 Rasta who were released have also complained that to date they have not received the phones and monies that were confiscated by DEC. By law, DEC must return such property because the defendants were not found guilty.