Two magistrates handling Patriotic Front related violence cases in Kasama and Lusaka have recused themselves as a result of extraneous political pressure.
In Kasama Magistrate Kelvin Soma recused himself after some named senior provincial PF officials threatened to protest against him if he insisted to continue handling the matter.
This was when some senior PF officials accused Magistrate Soma of being close to some of Former Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba’s supporters.
Magistrate Soma adjourned the matter to January 23, 2014 for mention and continued trial under a new magistrate.
This is in a matter where Charles Chama 41, Whiteson Mutanta 35, Christopher Malama 35, Frank Mbewe 34, Wedson Sinkolowe 42 and Ireen Chitonge 41 all members of the ruling party are jointly charged for conduct likely to cause breach of peace contrary to section 178 Sub-section (f) Cap 87 of the laws of Zambia.
Particulars of the offence are that in count one, it is alleged that on 26th December, 2013 between 11:00 and 12:00 hours the accused persons whilst acting together did disrupt a meeting of their rival camp at the Kasama Municipal Council Chamber.
In count two, Malama and Mbewe are alleged to have assaulted Chiba ward Councilor who is also a member of the PF Provincial Committee, Rosemary Chilufya contrary to section 248 Chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia.
And in Lusaka, Principle Resident Magistrate Obbister Musukwa has recused himself from handling the case in which embattled Lusaka Province Patriotic Front youth chairman Kennedy Kamba is charged of proposing violence during the intraparty clashes that left one member dead and many others wounded last year.
This is after the matter failed to take place yesterday as a result of absence of the witnesses who had been intimidated against giving evidence.
The arresting officer Kezzy Siame said that he had informed the two witnesses but wondered why they we re not before the court.
When the matter came up for commencement of trial yesterday before Magistrate Musukwa, the state informed the court that the two witnesses who were expected to testify in the matter were not present before the court.
Magistrate Musukwa wanted to know why they were not present despite being summoed to appear before the court.
He noted that it was clear that there was interference in the matter despite the defence team trying to defend its client.
Magistrate Musukwa wondered how the PF chairman could talk about reconciliation over a matter which was before the courts of law.
He said that he had taken note of all that was said by both parties the defence and the prosecution and the application by the state asking him to summon the PF Munali Constituency chairman to appear before the court to explain why he had stopped the witness from attending the session.
Magistrate stated in his ruling that, “I recuse myself from handling this matter and I am referring the matter to the Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda for re-allocation. The matter adjourned.”
This was after the arresting officer in the matter, Kezzy Siame, a Criminal Investigations Officer (CID) from Ng’ombe Compound, said one of the witnesses, Immanuel Chola, had his phone switched off when he was contacted this morning (yesterday).
He further said that the other witness informed him that Munali Constituency PF chairman stopped him from attending court saying it was unnecessary for him to appear before the court because they had a meeting where they were trying to reconcile.
But defence lawyer Abraham Mwansa said what the arresting officer Siame said had no bearing on the accused person as he was not aware of the alleged reconciliation being talked about, adding that the reconciliation matter was not brought to the attention of his client.
This was the second time the commencement of trial in the Kamba matter could not take place because state witnesses failed to appear before the court to testify despite being issued with summons by the arresting officer. The magistrate had strongly warned Kamba during his last appearance in court not to interfere with the witnesses when they failed to appear before the court due to alleged threats.