CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka
UNITED Party for National Development president Hakainde Hichilema has been released from prison following the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to enter a nolle prosequi in a case in which he was charged with treason.
Hichilema, Hamaleka Hamuchinde, Hachinda Muleya, Laston Mulilanduba, Pretorius Haloba and Wallace Chakawa were charged with two counts of treason.
When the case came up for trial before High Court judge Charles Banda, the DPP Lillian Siyunyi made the application to discharge the six on a nolle prosequi.
A nolle prosequi is entered when the prosecution has given notice that it does not have sufficient evidence to get a conviction or prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However, if the prosecution finds any evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty, the case may be re-opened.
Mrs Siyunyi said she made the application in accordance with Article 180 paragraph seven of the constitution of Zambia.
“I would like to inform this honourable court that I am entering a nolle prosequi in respect to all accused persons before you, having regard to Article 180,” she said.
And Mr Justice Chanda granted the application saying Mrs Siyunyi did so in accordance with her constitutional powers.
He said a nolle prosequi is not an acquittal and that the six may be liable to be prosecuted for the same offence.
“You are now at liberty to go home. Take note, this discharge is not an acquittal,” Mr Justice Chanda said.
This was received with cheers from UPND supporters who had come to show solidarity and listen to the proceedings.
Mr Hichilema, who was clad in a red shirt, and had a sweater around his neck, was shortly thereafter ushered out of the courtroom.
The six were then taken to Lusaka Central Prison around 09:15 hours for release formalities and were met with a horde of UPND cadres who trooped to the prison after word went round that they were released.
Particulars of the treason offence are that between April 5 and 8, 2017, in Lusaka and Mongu, Hichilema and five others, jointly and whilst acting together with other unknown persons, did endeavour to carry out by force an enterprise to usurp the executive powers of the State in a matter of public and general nature by overt acts.
Details of the first overt act are that on April 5, 2017, Hichilema, together with others, conspired to mobilise an advance party to ensure he was to be accorded the status of President of Zambia at the Kuomboka ceremony in Mongu.
In the second overt act, particulars are that on April 8, 2017, Hichilema and over 60 other unknown people, and being on a convoy of motor vehicles on the Mongu–Limulunga road, did obstruct the presidential motorcade, an act that was likely to cause death or grievous harm to the President to usurp the executive powers of the State.
And ARTHUR MWANSA reports that Mr Hichilema said it is the collective duty of opposition political parties to ensure there is unity of purpose in Zambia.
And Mr Hichilema has thanked Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for visiting him and having fruitful discussions with him when he was incarcerated.
Mr Hichilema said this yesterday when he addressed his supporters immediately after he was released from prison.
Mr Hichilema said the UPND and its supporters are committed to the principles of the Commonwealth and values of the rule of law, good governance, human rights and basic universal freedoms.
“I want to publicly thank Patricia Scotland and I want to state here that I had very good discussion with her, she is a very intelligent woman and we had very straightforward discussions.
“And we are committed, as everyone else should be in this country, to peace, stability and development. We cannot continue to live the way we are, it is uncomfortable,” he said.
Mr Hichilema asked his supporters to use their strength in a proper manner to provide leadership to the Zambian people.
He thanked the church mother bodies, regional community, UPND leadership, and the general membership for their support during the time he and five others were in prison.