Livingstone Member of Parliament Matthews Jere has been acquitted of one count of abuse of authority of office, while former Livingstone Deputy Mayor Fred Sikazwe, and five former Livingstone councillors have been convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for six months.
In the first count, Milford Maambo, Fred Sikazwe, Ziwa Ziwa, Patrick Makala, Reuben Kakwasha, Stanley Ngoma, Fennix Liandisha, Frank Kalindima, Steven Simasinti, Friday Nkonde, Aggrey Njkewa, Saxon Simachembele, Matthews Jere, and Liswani Likando were charged with abuse of authority contrary to section 21 (1a) of the Anti-Corruption Act number three of 2012.
Appearing before Kalomo based Magistrate Likando Matakala (sitting in Livingstone), particulars were that, the accused persons on dates unknown but between 1st August 2013 and 31st October 2014, jointly and whilst acting together with other persons unknown in Livingstone, being public officers namely, councillors in Livingstone City Council did abuse their authority of office by allocating plots of land to themselves, on property number LIV/4051.
In count two, Kabukabu Sikwebele, Choolwe Lipenga, Benny Chiyesu and Kingsley Siasinyanga being public officers namely Director of Legal Services, Acting Director of Housing and Social Services, Director of Engineering Services and Director of Finance respectively, were also charged with abuse of authority of office.
Particulars were that the accused persons on dates unknown but between 1st August 2013 and 31st October 2014, jointly and whilst acting together with other persons unknown in Livingstone, did abuse their authority of office by allocating themselves pieces of land on property numbers 10672, 10676, 10675 and 10674 respectively.
After considering the evidence, Magistrate Matakala said despite having two counts in the matter, the offence committed was one.
Magistrate Matakala said the accused persons did not allocate themselves land but were mere applicants like any other, and the procedure was followed as their names were recommended by a competently constituted committee to the full council.
She also noted that while some procedures were not fully complied with; those which were not followed could not amount to abuse of authority of office as they were just administrative lapses.
“The State failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt and as such, I find all the accused persons not guilty of the offence of abuse of authority of office and I acquit them accordingly,” she said.
However, following the acquittal, the State advanced an alternative argument that some of the accused persons failed to declare interest contrary to section 28 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act number 3 of 2012.
Milford Maambo, Fred Sikazwe, Ziwa Ziwa, Patrick Makala, Reuben Kakwasha and Stanley Ngoma were the accused who were members of the committee that sat to deliberate on the said land allocation and had voting rights, but failed to declare interest in the matter.
The other accused persons were acquitted despite being present in the committee meeting as they were not members of that particular committee and had no voting rights.
In mitigation, defence counsel Adrian Nkausu said his clients were first offenders and deserved leniency.
Mr Nkausu asked the court to consider a suspended sentence while the other defence lawyer Brian Gumbo said the convicts were bread winners and should not be sent to prison as it was congested and posed a high risk of them contracting Covid -19.
But in passing judgement, Magistrate Matakala said the subject offence carried a maximum sentence of 14 years and it would be unfair to let the convicts go scot free.
She sentenced the six convicts, Maambo, Sikazwe, Ziwa, Makala, Kakwasha and Ngoma to one year imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for six months.