Top Zambian Opposition Leader Slammed Two-Year Jail Term in a Judgment Seen as Politically Motivated
Lusaka Principal Resident Magistrate, David Simusamba has sentenced the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Party Chairman, Mr. Chishimba Kambwili to 24 months after finding him guilty of forgery and propagating false document as well as giving false information to a public officer in relation to the registration of Mwamona Engineering and Technical Services.
Magistrate Simusamba ordered that Mr. Kambwili serve 12 months for count one of forgery and another 12 months for propagating a false document. Both sentences would run concurrently, meaning that he would only serve a year in jail.
Mr. Kambwili who is also former Government Spokesperson and Minister for information and broadcasting was sacked by President Edgar Lungu on November 8, 2016, with no reasons advanced.
He was arrested for offences relating to the registration of Mwamona Engineering and Technical Services following a complaint lodged by Equity and Economic Party (EEP) leader, Chilufya Tayali in 2018.
It was alleged in the first count that Mr. Kambwili on October 29, 2013, with intent to defraud or deceive, forged a ‘No Change Return Form’ (Companies Form 71) purporting to show that it was genuinely signed by Mwamba, his son when in fact it was not true.
Count two alleged that Mr. Kambwili on the same day forged the ‘No Change Return Form’, he knowingly and fraudulently uttered it to an officer at Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA). In the third count, he was accused of giving false information to a public officer.
Mr. Kambwili was formally charged and arrested on January 23, 2018, by Defective Inspector Stanley Mumbula after he established that the NRC number that was assigned to the documents for Mwamona's registration were not for Mwamba as he was a minor at the time the company was incorporated. Mr. Mumbula's investigations established that the signatures purporting that Mwamba signed on the documents were in fact for Mr. Kambwili.
In his judgment, Magistrate Simusamba said it was a fact that Mr. Kambwili forged the 'No Change Return Form' by creating a fictitious name 'Mwamba Chishimba' and uttered the same document to the Patents and Companies Agency (PACRA).
It emerged that the NRC number which was used on the registration forms for Mwamona was for Sampa Kambwili and that the accused assigned that NRC to his son to comply with registration procedures.
Magistrate Simusamba said he agreed with the complainant; Equity and Economic Party President, Chilufya Tayali and arresting officer Stanley Mumbula, that Mwamba Chishimba was a fictitious person used in the incorporation of the company.
“I agree with Chilufya Tayali (complainant) and Mumbula (arresting officer) that the name Mwamba Chishimba on the change return is fictitious...the circumstances of dropping the Kambwili name by the incorporators of the company was to disguise the name Kambwili and by doing that they created a fictitious person by assigning him an NRC number for Sampa Kambwili,” he said.
The Court said Mwamba Chishimba was a fictitious person in as far as the documentation of Mwamona was concerned.
Magistrate Simusamba noted that he found as a fact that Kambwili forged Form 71 (No Change Return Form) which was the subject of the matter by purporting that he was signing on behalf of his son, Chishimba Mwamba when in fact he did not sign in a representation form but on his own behalf. He noted that was the reason why Kambwili was called a director of Mwamona Engineering and Technical Services.
The Magistrate found Kambwili guilty of forgery and uttering a fake document but acquitted him of giving false information. In passing judgment, he said “I have come to a conclusion that he has no regard for institutions of justice given the way he conducted himself,” he said.
Magistrate Simusamba said he had tried many high-profile people, including Nevers Mumba but that none of them conducted themselves like Mr. Kambwili. He said other high-profile people always conducted themselves in a dignified manner and showed respect to the court. He insisted that Mr. Kambwili deserved a punitive sentence to send a warning to those who think they can disrespect the court.
In dispensing justice, the Magistrate sentenced Mr. Kambwili to 12 months on the count of forgery and 12 months on the count relating to the uttering of a false document. He, however, ruled that the sentences should run concurrently, meaning the accused would serve just one year in prison with hard labour.
Political actors in the country have described the development as sad. The Chairperson for Labour and Employment at the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Yotam Mtayachalo told Timescape that one did not need to be a rocket scientist to predict the outcome of the case because there had been personal issues involving Mr. Kambwili and the trial magistrate, David Simusamba.
He noted that in view of several allegations both men levelled against each other, the judge should have either recused himself or the administration would have unassigned him and brought in another magistrate to protect the credibility of the Zambian judiciary system.
“Further Mr. Kambwili through his lawyers tried their level best to have Magistrate Simusamba recuse himself from handling this matter but all in vain and in the same regard it was difficult for the accused person to expect to get justice in such an acrimonious trial,” Mr Mtayachalo said.
He also stated that there were signs that upon appeal, the embattled political leader could have a fairer hearing.
United Party for National Development -UPND Chairman Hakainde Hichilema and Ms Edith Nwakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development- FDD locked in a battle of their own
NDC Party Leader, Mr. Kambwili is one of the main challengers to President Edgar Lungu. He is on record to have accused the president and his government several times of corruption. With the 2021 general elections slated for August 12, 2021, fast approaching, the big question now is whether the NDC leader will make it on the ballot paper.
Mr. Kambwili woes come on the heels of other outbursts, seen as politically motivated against the Chairman od another frontline opposition party, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND). Claims of him defrauding the state by false pretence while playing a role in the privatization of state-owned companies in 1990s by Ms. Edith Nawakwi of the FDD have been widely seen as a proxy attack from the ruling party with plans to drag him before the law courts and eventually knocking him too, out of the race to the presidency in 2021.