THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has acquitted former tourism minister Sylvia Masebo of abuse of authority.
Lusaka senior resident magistrate Ireen Wishimanga in her judgment this morning said Masebo did not abuse her power by directing the cancellation of hunting concessions under then Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) when she was Minister of Tourism.
This is in a case where Masebo was charged with abuse of authority of office contrary to the Laws of Zambia.
It was alleged that Masebo on dates unknown but between December 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 in Lusaka, being Minister of Tourism and Arts, abused the authority of her office by cancelling the procurement process of the hunting concessions without following laid down procedure, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights or interests of the government of the Republic of Zambia.
She pleaded not guilty to the charge and stated in her final submission that the cancellation of the corrupt and irregularity-ridden tender process actually served the interests of the government and could not be said to be prejudicial to the interests of the government.
She submitted that the case was a very bad example for whistle blowers, be it those serving in the government or otherwise.
“We in conclusion submit that the prosecution has failed to prove the case of abuse of authority of office beyond doubt against the accused and she ought to be set at liberty,” read the submissions in part.
Masebo stated that facts of this case were too glaring to call for any further elaboration.
She stated that instead of vindicting her, she should have received praise for her effort to fight the deeply entrenched corruption at Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
Masebo added that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) who independently proved most of the concerns she raised and who concluded that ZAWA officials were prone and conducive to corrupt practices, turned around when it was politically convenient to persecute her instead on a matter she reported to them.
But the prosecution submitted that Masebo had not defended the case of the cancellation of the tender and that the defence had adduced evidence which either supports their case or does not attack the indictment.
“On the premises, count one is satisfied. We urge this court to find the accused guilty as charged and convict her accordingly,” read the State’s submissions.
But Magistrate Wishimanga this morning said the prosecution failed to provide evidence of how Masebo, who is is also former Chongwe member of parliament, personally benefitted from the cancellation of the hunting concession and therefore acquitted her of the charge.