FORMER Minister of Mines Maxwell Mwale has been jailed 12 months by the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court following his conviction for abuse of office.
In a parked courtroom filled with Mwale’s relatives, Magistrate Lameck Mwale said the former minister’s imprisonment was with effect from the date of his conviction last Wednesday.
Magistrate Mwale said he would be failing in his duty if he did not send Mwale, who looked calm and collected as the sentencing was being delivered, to jail despite the mitigation by the defence lawyer.
He said cases of abuse of office have become rampant in the country and that the court had an obligation to mete out punishment to deter would-be offenders.
“I have an obligation to mete out punishment. I therefore sentence you to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour,” Mr Mwale said.
This was in the case in which Maxwell Mwale was facing two counts of abuse of authority of his office and possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Magistrate Mwale also ordered that the 1,661 bicycles which were confiscated from the accused should be given back to Mwale.
In his judgment on Wednesday, Mr Mwale said he was convinced that the former minister had abused his office by interfering in the issuance of mining licences.
He said there were other applicants for mining licences before Zhonngi International Mining Industry Group Limited but they were not considered.
Mr Mwale said the system at the Ministry of Mines was such that the issuance of mining licences was based on first come, first served basis.
After the sentencing, plainclothes police officers led Mwale to a white Toyota Corolla car in which he was bundled and driven to prison.
On Wednesday the magistrate acquitted the former member of Parliament for Malambo constituency of the offence of being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The court ruled that the arresting officer did not thoroughly investigate the matter before effecting an arrest on the accused as the State failed to establish who paid for the bicycles.
But State prosecutors have indicated that they are considering appealing against the acquittal.