OBVIOUS Mwaliteta says he is happy that he has been acquitted of aggravated robbery but expressed sadness that his leader Hakainde Hichilema is still incarcerated.
In an interview after leaving Lusaka Correctional Facility today following his acquittal by Lusaka High Court judge Mwape Bowa, Mwaliteta and others who emerged from Chimbokaila shortly after 15:00 hours following clearance by the prison authorities, was received by his wife Mary and other many members of the UPND.
Soon after walking to freedom, his fellow party supporters lifted him in jubilation and he could not hide his excitement. Traffic on the road leading to Lusaka Central Prison came to a standstill.
We knew that we were very innocent even the time they arrested us. We knew we were going to be acquitted. I am very excited that finally we have been acquitted, we are finally free. We knew that it was politically motivated. We are sad that our president still remains in incarceration and my friend honorable (Keith) Mukata is in that situation,
Mwaliteta, a former minister and Kafue member of parliament in the PF government, said.
He thanked his lawyers for working tirelessly to secure his liberty.
I am very happy and thankful to the lawyers who have worked tirelessly to see me out, my family, the party for support, I am very thankful,
said Mwaliteta who could not give a proper interview due to demands by his security detail to whisk him away.
Judge Bowa acquitted Mwaliteta and his co-accused who have been incarcerated for a year on charges of aggravated robbery after they tried to protect votes at Lusaka City Airport where Gen 12 forms were being received. In this case, Mwaliteta, Evans Mukobela, Emmanuel Mumba, Laswell Phiri and McMillan Shimukonka were charged with aggravated robbery contrary to the Laws of Zambia after being arrested on August 18.
Ruling on whether the accused had a case to answer or not, judge Bowa said the State had failed to prove their case.
He said the time that the alleged aggravated robbery took place, election materials were being transported as it was an election period. ”I find that the State has not proved their case to warrant the accused to be placed on their defence,” judge Bowa said.
He said there was nothing strange about a politician being found at the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) offices during an election period.
He initially acquitted three of the accused – Emmanuel Mumba, Laswell Phiri, and Macmillan Shimukonka – saying there was no evidence to show that the three were involved in the alleged crime.
Judge Bowa said the failure by the police investigations officer to show their involvement in the crime created a doubt in his mind. He said the accused were neither found with the paper spray allegedly used on the victims nor were they found with the stolen items. The three were led out of the courtroom as the crowd cheered.
On Mwaliteta and Evans Mukobela, judge Bowa ruled that there was no direct evidence linking them to the offence.
“There is nothing strange about A1 (Mwaliteta) being found at the ECZ premises as he is a known politician and other party representatives being on the scene since they were monitoring election results,” he said as most people in the packed courtroom nodded in agreement.
He also added that the arresting officer, Arthur Shonga, discredited the evidence. Judge Bowa said Shonga did not investigate the matter properly. Mwaliteta and Mukobela hugged and wept following the acquittal. UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, who was in attendance, also shed tears after ruling was passed.
Earlier, judge Bowa established that it was a fact that Mwaliteta had a conversation with former police commissioner Fanwell Siandenge prior to the crime and that he was found with him at the ECZ car park.
Meanwhile, one of Mwaliteta’s daughters, Melissa, who fainted in court, had to be lifted out of the courtroom by police officers and relatives as judge Bowa looked on.
Mwaliteta’s wife Mary who did not have much to say after the acquittal, said she was shocked but “very happy”. And lawyer Keith Mweemba said the accused persons should not have been charged with such an offense in the first place. By 13:30 hours, the Lusaka Central Correctional Service premises was flooded with sympathisers who waited for Mwaliteta’s arrival from the Lusaka High Court for clearance.
The defense lawyers, who included Anthony Kasolo, Mweemba, Mulambo Haimbe, Gilbert Phiri, and Willis Muhanga were embraced by sympathisers and relatives.