By PERPETUAL SICHIKWENKWE -
TWO Zambia Army officers and a United Party for National Development (UPND) supporter yesterday appeared in the Lusaka magistrates’ court for allegedly conspiring to murder former Republican president Rupiah Banda.
Steven Phiri and Steven Chooka, both soldiers of Lusaka West Military Camp, and Milner Mwanakampwe, who is UPND Central Province chairperson, are also alleged to have conspired to murder Special Assistant to the President for Political Affairs Kaizer Zulu.
The offence was committed between June 30 and August 8, 2017, with other unknown persons said to be involved.
In a third count, Phiri is alleged to have been found in unlawful possession of eight national registration cards (NRCs) belonging to other persons on August 8, this year.
Represented by Martha Mushipe, Keith Mweemba, Mulambo Haimbe and Christopher Mundia Junior, the trio did not have the charge of conspiring to murder explained to them as the State sought to have the matter adjourned to today.
Phiri was unable to take plea for being in unlawful possession of NRCs for the same reason.
The adjournment was sought after chief Resident Magistrate Kenneth Mulife asked the prosecution as to how the court would proceed in handling the case because some of the charges against the men were triable by the High Court.
The prosecution applied for the case to be adjourned to today to enable them separate the charges.
The defence team objected to the application of an adjournment, arguing that their clients had already been in custody for too long.
Ms Mushipe said the State had had ample time to separate the offences, and wondered why it had left it until yesterday to seek an adjournment to do so.
She said her clients’ constitutional rights had been violated and, as such, the case should not be adjourned but the court should either acquit the three of those counts, which were triable by the High Court and proceed with the one that was rightly before the magistrates’ court.
Another defence lawyer, Keith Mweemba said there was no justification for the State to apply for an adjournment.
Mr Mweemba said that instead of adjourning the matter, the court should proceed with the proceedings of a charge that could be tried before it and only explain those triable by the High Court.
Mr Mundia said rather than adjourn, the court should explain the counts tried by the High Court and make the three take plea in the count tried before it.
Mr Mulife in his ruling reluctantly allowed the adjournment, but counselled the State to put its house in order.
Meanwhile, the Lusaka magistrate’s court yesterday, declined to grant the accused bail pending trial, but advised them to make the application today after they had taken plea and have the charge tried by the High Court explained to them.