TWO individuals and a company have been charged with Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela for two counts of concealing property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
And plea in the case failed to take off yesterday due to the absence of a representative of the accused company Brut Holdings Limited.
Meanwhile, Principal Resident Magistrate David Simusamba has warned against irresponsible reporting of the case in the media, adding that he would not hesitate to cite for contempt of court any media house that would misrepresent facts of the case.
According to the indictment presented before court, Chitotela is now charged with Gregory Chibanga, Brut Holdings Limited (where Chibanga is director), and Diris Mukange.
In the first count, particulars of the offence are that between July 1, 2016 and October 30, 2018, Chitotela, Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited in Lusaka concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni, disguised in the names of Diris Mukange.
In count two, particulars of the offence are that between the same dates in Lusaka, the trio concealed the remaining extent of subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, disguised in the names of Diris Mukange.
In the third and fourth counts, Mukange is charged alone for being in possession of the said properties suspected to be proceeds of crime.
After clarification of Brut Holdings Limited’s status in the case, the lawyer representing the company, James Matalilo said the company’s representative was not present before court yesterday.
“We were served the summons yesterday (Wednesday) around 13:00 hours and we did not make necessary arrangements to have a representative of accused number three before court today. For the absence of accused number three, the court will adjourn the matter,” Mr Matalilo said.
Before the adjournment, one of Chitotela’s lawyers Noel Simwanza implored Mr Simusamba to place a caveat on irresponsible media coverage of matters before him.
“We understand that it is the court’s sole responsibility to determine matters based on evidence before it. It is on that premise that this court is sought to firmly warn against fanciful reporting,” Mr Simwanza said.
Another lawyer representing Chitotela, Jonas Zimba, said the prejudice that had been caused was the publication in the News Diggers newspaper dated February 7, 2019, in which it was claimed that Chitotela’s alleged corruption could be trailed to lawyers, Chinese and others.
Mr. Zimba complained that the said publication had brought public judgment on his client without trial “and at the same cries that my client be suspended when he is not a public office holder also seriously places him in public judgment, which will prejudice this matter.
“We pray that irresponsible reporting be curtailed and that only responsible reporting be allowed. The court is clothed with duty to hear the matter and determine it based on evidence.”
The State did not object on grounds that the media should not be gagged as long as they were doing their job professionally through responsible reporting.
Mr. Simusamba then warned all media houses to desist from irresponsible reporting and misrepresentation of facts, adding that journalists must report facts as they unfold or in the manner they will unfold.