The Lusaka Magistrates Court has sentenced former Zambia Air Force (ZAF) commander Andrew Sakala to five years imprisonment with hard labour for theft of public funds amounting to K1.5 million.
On Monday last week, the court found Gen Sakala guilty of the offence, but acquitted former Zambia Army commander Wisdom Lopa and former Zambia National Service commandant Antony Yeta of the offence.
Deputy director of local courts, Mr Wilfred Muma, sitting as Principal Magistrate, said he had listened to the mitigation by General Sakala but that sending him to jail would deter other public servants from committing similar offences.
Magistrate Muma said government had lost a lot of resources in similar fashion.
“There is need to punish offenders to deter others who would want to commit such offences. I, therefore, sentence the convict to five years with hard labour starting from 6th October 2014,” he said. “The convict is, therefore, reminded of his right to appeal to the High Court.”
Magistrate Muma said the offence which the convict committed has a maximum of 15 years imprisonment and that he has taken into account Sakala’s mitigation that he was a first offender who deserved leniency.
In mitigation Gen Sakala, through his lawyer Nganga Yalenga, prayed to the court to give him a custodial sentence as the court has power to suspend the whole portion of the sentence unless there were other extraordinary features which could aggravate the sentence.
Gen Sakala said he served the Public Service in an exemplary manner for over 40 years and also helped in the smooth transition of power in 2011 from MMD to the Patriotic Front (PF).
“The convict helped the smooth transition of power from MMD to PF and that the convict helped maintain peace and tranquility of this nation,” Mr Yalenga said.
He said the court should also consider the character of Sakala, as he had a huge responsibility put on his shoulders.
Gen Sakala said he had several dependants and his stay in prison would deprive them of their bread- winner and make them destitute.
“Currently, he has dependants who face loss of a bread-winner, and majority of them will add to the ever increasing burden of orphans and young children roaming the streets, a situation which is contributing to the decay of moral fibre of the country,” he said.
And Mr Yalenga told the Magistrate’s Court that he would make a fresh application to the High Court to appeal against the five-year jail term slapped on his client.
He informed Magistrate Muma that on October 7, 2014 he went to the High Court to file an appeal in the registry but he was not allowed to do so by the registrar staff.
But Magistrate Muma halted the earlier application for appeal against the conviction of Gen Sakala by Mr Yalenga until it was done properly. The magistrate told Mr Yalenga that he should have waited for the case to be disposed of instead of him rushing to make an application in the High Court.
Magistrate Muma said the appeal was prematurely prepared and lodged in the High Court, adding that it could not go ahead as if it were a case in a local court.