LUSAKA principal resident magistrate Mwaka Mikalile has acquitted musician Pilato and five others of disobeying lawful orders.
And magistrate Mikalile says the police orders to the accused persons to stop their demonstration last year were illegal.
Meanwhile, Pilato says they are victims of insecure leaders who want to cover their insecurities using the police.
Pilato (real name Fumba Chama), Alliance for Community Action executive director Laura Miti, Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), president Sean Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa, Lewis Mwape and Mika Mwambazi were arrested last year after they disobeyed police orders not to demonstrate against the purchase of 42 fire tenders at Parliament Road on September 29, 2017.
The accused were represented by Keith Mweemba, Gilbert Phiri and Zevwanji Sinkala.
Ruling on whether or not the accused had a case to answer, magistrate Mikalile said no reasonable tribunal could convict the accused persons on the evidence before her so far.
She said the police did not act professionally and lawfully and that they were indeed the major obstacle to proper administration of the public order Act.
“The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that the order issued by PW1 to the accused persons was not duly made or was not backed by law. As such, I find that the essential elements of the offence under consideration has not been proved,” she said.
Magistrate Mikalile said the Constitution of Zambia gives the accused persons the right to assembly or demonstrate peacefully and the Constitution was superior to the said service instructions of rules of engagement.
She said it was abundantly clear that there was no basis upon which the police could stop the demonstration of September 29 as the demonstrators had properly notified the police and the demonstration was not a security risk.
Magistrate Mikalile said the allegation of some prosecution witnesses that the six accused persons wanted to enter Parliament building had not been proved because the accused were stopped just when they turned into Parliament Road when their notices were specific that they wanted to demonstrate on the road leading to Parliament building.
Magistrate Mikalile said the demonstrators’ right to assemble and march had accrued at the time the police purportedly responded on September 26, 2017, which was two to three days before the demonstration and further by the virtue of the fact that the regulatory officer did not respond to Tembo’s letter.
“If anything, the service instructions should have applied to the group in green berets that came for the purpose of disturbing the peaceful demonstrators because it had clearly not notified the police of its intention to assemble,” she said.
Magistrate Mikalile said any order that came after the police’s response to Miti’s notice was illegal.
“It was submitted by the defence and I agree that any subsequent order that followed after the police failed to obey the law is and was illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional,” she said.
Magistrate Mikalile added that Pilato and others were well within their right to proceed with their planned demonstration on Parliament Road.
“They did what is required of them but the police failed to do what was required of them by law,” she added.
Magistrate Mikalile said she found that an essential element of the offence under consideration had not been proved.
“I do hereby dismiss the charge. I accordingly acquit all the accused persons in compliance with section 206 of the Criminal Procedure Code cap 88 of the Laws of Zambia and set them at liberty forthwith,” said magistrate Mikalile.
And speaking to journalists after the acquittal, Pilato said justice had been served.
“We are victims of insecure leaders who want to cover their insecurities using the police…. Justice has been delivered and we are happy,” he said.
Tembo said the intention of taking them to court was malicious and meant to deprive them of their financial resources, which they spent on legal fees.
Miti said they would continue carrying out lawful and peaceful demonstrations, saying the court rightly ruled that they had a constitutional right to assemble and march in a peaceful manner.