AGAIN, COURT ADJOURNS JUDGMENT IN ACC CASE AGAINST AMOS CHANDA.
The Lusaka Magistrates Court has for the fourth time, adjourned to 15 February 2024, the passing of judgment in a case in which the ACC alleged that Amos Chanda and two others insulted and obstructed them from collecting alleged evidence of corruption from his residencies.
In a brief appearance lasting less than two minutes today, the court asked the accused to stand down as the matter has been adjourned to 15 February next year.
And in short interview with the media after the court session, Mr Chanda said at any time before judgement, matters were under sub-judice and so he has “absolutely nothing to say to the media. Asked where he felt frustrated by the adjournments, Mr Chanda said “the court process was just what it is… a court process, which is totally outside the control of the parties.”
In July this year, the court set 29 September 2023 as the date for judgement but has since then adjourned the matter four times since then.
On 2 November 2021, the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested Amos Chanda, the former presidential aide, his wife Mable Nakaundi-Chanda, a business executive and clinical psycologist and his sister-in-law Ruth Nakaundi, an industrial psychologist, and jointly charged them with obstruction and using insulting language against ACC officers.
The prosecution called seven witnesses, all, but one coming from the ACC team that conducted a search on Mr Chanda’s properties, complained, investigated, testified and prosecuted the case themselves.
The defence called three witnesses and made a 21-page submission in which they held that the evidence of the prosecution was manifestly unreliable because it contained glaring contradictions which created sufficient doubt warranting the court to dismiss it in its entirety and acquit the accused.
Defence lawyer Timmy Munalula argued that the only consistent thing cascading through the entire body of evidence by the seven state witnesses is a pattern of contradictions and sensational fictions. It is quite extraordinary, he said, that seven people attending the same crime scene at the same time can arrive at such extreme variations in their accounts of the alleged occurrences of the day.
“This honourable court found the accused with a case to answer and put them on their defence. But from the aforesaid, the prosecution has failed to prove their allegations beyond the reasonable doubt required for this court to find a verdict of guilt.”
“The accused persons called three witnesses: A2 as Defence witness number one (DW1), A3 as Defence witness number two, and a Lusaka businessman as Defence witness number three (DW3). Mr Chanda (A1), remained silent because he did not want to render any substance to the overly sensational testimonies by the state witnesses.
The ACC witnesses, all submitted that Mr Chanda, Mrs Chanda and Ms Nakaundi were not present when the ACC team searched the farm in Palabana; that the two ladies were also not present at the State Lodge property during the search, and that when Mr Chanda arrived there, the search was already underway and that they barricaded him outside the yard and concluded the search without him.
At the Woodlands property Mrs Chanda testified that she was never in the house where the ACC alleged she and her sister Ruth, jointly insulted and obstructed the officers. The ACC did not make any allegations against Mr Chanda at the Woodlands property.
William Chilufya prosecution witness number one (PW1), an investigations officer at ACC told the court that he and other officers put the phone on loud speaker and heard Mr Chanda requesting to speak to one of the officers. Mr Chilufya said he heard Mr Chanda questioning the legality of the search.
“The phone conversation ended and the search was conducted smoothly.”
He then played before court, a phone recording between Mr Chanda and the ACC and admitted that in that conversation, Mr Chanda did not use any insulting language but only questioned the officers if the ACC would continue abruptly ask him to join them at random searches they were conducting on his properties at such short notices of 20 minutes or less as they had done for Njolwe and State Lodge. But Chilufya alleged that in a phone conversation ACC did not record, Mr Chanda allegedly insulted.
And Friday Tembo, the search party team leader who manned the gate at the Woodlands property neither Mrs Chanda nor Ms. Nakaundi insulted him nor were they violent during the search. “She (A3) was peaceful as she introduced herself as the sister to the owner of the house the ACC was searching. Infact it is only now, in (court)that I am knowing that the lady in quest, ion is one of the accused who is in the dock as A3. I have just seen her and A2 (Mrs Chanda) right here in court for the first time.
I have seen the two ladies, A2 and A3 today in court and I have never met them before, so they could not have insulted me.”
In the light of these diametrically opposed testimonies between PW1 and PW4 on the one side, and PW6 on the other, it is precariously unsafe to assign any form of credibility to the testimony of PW1, the defence submitted.
“In the light of the various inferences that may arise due to the contradictory evidence within the prosecution team itself, even before the opposition evidence by the defence, what sort of inference (s) can this court draw other than giving the accused the benefit of doubt that the crime being alleged did not in fact occur?”
No witness testified that Mr Chanda insulted or obstructed anyone at 67A Elm Road in Woodlands.
The defence also dismissed state witness number two Ms Lomuthuzi Bili’s evidence that the ACC’s failed to collect credible evidence because they ordered (and apparently obeyed) to close their eyes and enter the room whilst walking backwards and stopped from switching on lights in the room under search. The defence questioned how possible it was for the ACC officers to seize some documents and be able to record in writing, as they did, items taken if they eyes were closed and in a dark room.
Ms Bili focused these sensational allegations on accused two Ms. Nakaundi, the industrial psycologist with several years of experience across the private sector and international organisations. Ms Nakaundi denied the allegations.
This version was also sharply contradicted another witness MR. SWEATHEN LUSAKA (PW4) who said when he was called in to reinforce the search of the room in question, he did not encounter any of the things Ms Bili sensationally narrated.
“It is strange that PW2, (Ms Bili) demonstrated this extraordinary ability to narrate a series of events that did not happen. PW2 submitted that she recorded in writing all the items taken from the room. How she could see items and be able to record in the note book and on ACC Form 12, in the dark, remains a mystery only she could explain,” the lawyers argued.
“This court must NOT render any credence to this uncollaborated evidence which was also contradictory. Apart from the fictional concoctions to malign the accused, the evidence by PW2 falls flat on its back in the light of PW4’s evidence that none of the things she said was witnessed by him.”
Mr Lusaka insisted that he was sober, diligent and perfectly normal on the night and that he paid particular attention since he was called in to reinforce the search.
“PW2’s sensational narration of a series of events that did not happen would have been hilarious if it were not so serious as to advance a false testimony upon which she was seeking the conviction of innocent people who did not do any of the things she alleged. As a matter of fact, this honourable court will recall that PW2, revealed during cross-examination that fictional literature and Nigerian movies were part of her favourite pastime hobbies,” the lawyers submitted.