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Zambia: Citizens discuss ex-president's wife acquittal

Zambia’s second president Frederick Chiluba’s wife, Regina, who was last March sentenced to three and half years imprisonment by the lower magistrates court on five counts of failing to account for properties suspected to have been stolen in a case that gripped the nation, has had conviction overturned by the High Court.

A panel of three High Court judges who made the ruling on December 7 2010, said there was no proof that her goods and cash were stolen or obtained illegally. Mrs Chiluba’s acquittal follows the equally controversial acquittal of the former president who was accused by the man he bequeathed power to, Levy Mwanawasa, now late, of plundering national resources.

Chiluba, his wife, and most of his top aides, including senior military and intelligence officers and chief executives of parastatal companies, were charged with offences related to abuse of office and theft of large amounts of money from state coffers. Most of them have been convicted of the offences and are either serving jail sentences or are awaiting appeal of their cases in higher courts.

Mrs Chiluba’s acquittal has attracted a number of comments from readers in two leading Zambian citizen media websites: Lusaka Times and Zambian Watchdog. At the time of writing this, there were 151 comments on Lusaka Times and 88 comments on Zambian Watchdog.

Let's start with comments from Lusaka Times. Donkey wonders whether justice system in Zambia is for those in power:

Ba Kolwe ama [these monkey] judges need to start being sorted out one by one. then they will realize that no power no law can protect their abhorrent behaviour. Poor people have been imprisoned for 15, 25 year for very simple cases, and yet those in the upper echelon easily walk free for bigger cases. What sort of justice is this? How can courts be only for the power? If Banda can only save the rich and those scratching his back, then who will save the least of our society? If MMD will win the next year elections then there should be a coup. I am not saying this for play and that should be the only way out for Zambia. But whoever takes over power by coup should quickly clear and get rid of all old politicians before dawn so that Zambia will never return to old ways. Watch out a new day is coming!

mj says:

First the criminal master dribbler was acquitted. Another criminal has just been acquitted. Another criminal (murderer Al Bashir) has been invited into the country. This tells a story.

The fight against corruption in Zambia for the last 10 years, contends Diamond, has only benefited lawyers:

This is an interesting one. Honestly, how could the prosecution make claims of stolen items without having the said items reported to police or concrete evidence of them being stolen? Proving that an accused in guilty is entirely a duty of the prosecuting team and not the defense……. which is the reason why an accused is allowed to remain silent if s/he wishes. Looks like the so-called fight against corruption in the last 10yrs has mainly benefited lawyers (defense and prosecution alike) ……..

Zambian justice system is a joke, says Reader:

It must be very discouraging for the prosecutors bringing these cases to court. Is there any politician in the ruling party or a friend of the ruling party who has been convicted of the crimes they have been prosecuted for? The Zambian justice system is a joke. Did someone mention about the Chief Justice having dinner with these people? How can anyone expect the judiciary to act impartial in cases like these? Who can set guidelines about these things? Can LAZ help us? And chi RB should pardon that man sentenced to 20 years for stealing a bicycle.

Senior Citizen disagrees:

Zambia has the most effective professional independent justice system to the envy of her fellow commonwealth member countries. This is why other countries are approaching Zambia for help with men and women from the bench. We have seen Zambian legal brains on the auxillary benches of IC, in Namibia, Cambodia, Kenya, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda to mention but a few. We also see Zambians serving as some country law school Chairs, Deans and professors all because of who we are and the system developed on. It is justice when Minister Gladys Nyirongo is arrested and loses her appeal, it is when Emmanuel Mwamba is arrested, when Michael Sata is acquitted, when Kabwela is cleared, and all Generals are arrested but not professional when there is judicial victory of FJT haaah!

The judges are not to blame, says the Saint:

The Judges here are not to blame. This case should NEVER have been tried BEFORE Dr Chiluba’s case. The Magistrate could not acquit Regina because there was potentially a prima fascie case that she received stolien goods. Once it was proven that the goods were stolen, the conviction would have stood ipso facto. Going by the numerous blunders in the prosecution of Dr Chiluba’s cases, I have a feeling that ‘lawyer wa ma lawyer’ had either lost his legal mind, or he did want Dr Chiluba to be acquitted because Chiluba’s alleged corruption extended very nicely to Levi’s first term. Res ipsa loquitur.

This is animal farm!:

You either received stolen goods or u didn’t, which is it? Comedy of errors indeed and very sad. What’s hurts me is that when poor villagers grow marijuana to earn a few ngwees or when a hungry chap steals a chicken or few maize cobs, they’re sent to prison to do serious time! Yet white collar rich folks get away with a slap on the wrist. Animal farm indeed.

Reactions on Zambian Watchdog were as follows:

msana wanzili says that although she has been acquitted, Zambians enjoyed her humiliation:

She thought this day would never come. We know she will be acquitted but at least we’ve enjoyed her humiliation.

Clement says:

The lower court erred in law and in fact when it found……………………….. , so will read the judgment for Regina. This unfortunately is becoming the norm for high profile cases in Zambia. One good thing about it all is that at list her cases provided some entertainment. For sure how can she be found wanting if the person who supposedly gave her the stolen property was acquitted? The Truth is slow but it always catches up even when you are long dead.

Analyst says the whole thing is just confusing:

The judgement of the lower court and the high court are just too wide apart even after looking at the same evidence and the judges are from the same schools. It’s just confusing. Imagine someone with no capacity to appeal, one could have been jailed for three years on the basis of lower court judgement. Why??????????????

THE JACKAL says:

Who cares about what the stupid judges say. They know they are stupid and will always be stupid. They are not Zambians and we are looking forward to their own suffering in future!! Everybody is acquitting these guys and what they forget is so many people died because ka-chiluba was stealing the money that was supposed to put drugs in hospitals and clinics. I won’t miss any judge who dies – they don’t deserve my respect… They can go to hell.

I careless says:

That is a problem of politically motivated indictments and judgements. In criminal cases, there has to be no reasonable doubt that a person committed an offence. Any way that is Zambia for us.

The former president now acts as political consultant of President Rupiah Banda and the ruling MMD. He also attends official functions which he never attended for the seven years when Levy Mwanawasa was in power.
Zambians go to the polls next year to elect a new president and members of parliament but it remains to be seen who will be elected or re-elected following these legal and other controversial political developments in the country.

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