CHONGWE member of Parliament (MP) Sylvia Masebo has pleaded not guilty to two counts of escaping from lawful custody and unauthorised procession after being arrested and jointly charged with four others by police in Lusaka yesterday.
Masebo is jointly charged with Benson Mbewe, Joyce Sakala, Kenan Kabunda and Emmanuel Chilembo for unauthorised procession.
She is also separately charged with escaping from lawful custody.
Masebo, 45, politician, Mbewe, 37, tailor, Sakala, 50, unemployed, and Kabunda, 47, and Chilembo, 37, businessmen, all Lusaka residents, denied the charges when they appeared before magistrate Lameck Mwale.
The five have also been released on K10,000 bail each in their own recognisance on condition that they produce two working sureties, in the like sum, based in Lusaka and from established institutions.
“I record a plea of not guilty in respect of all the five accused persons,” Mr Mwale said.
On bail, Mr Mwale said denying Masebo bail on grounds that she allegedly escaped from lawful custody will be prejudicial because the offence has not been established by the courts.
He said the prosecution has not adduced any evidence to warrant the denial of granting bail pending trial to Masebo and the other four accused persons.
Defence lawyers Jack Mwiimbu, Marshall Muchende, Martha Mushipe and Keith Mweemba, said the five should be admitted to bail because their offences are misdemeanors and bailable.
But lead prosecutor Desmond Mwanza objected to the application, saying there is a likelihood the accused persons will repeat the offences.
Earlier, police re-arrested Masebo along with four others and slapped her with a fresh charge of escaping from lawful custody.
Lusaka Province commissioner of police Charity Katanga said yesterday that police arrested Masebo after interviewing her.
She said 16 others will be warned and cautioned before being arrested today.
“Ms Masebo has been arrested together with four others for escaping lawful custody while 16 others are still undergoing screening today [yesterday],” she said.
Masebo yesterday appeared in the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for two counts of holding an unlawful procession and escaping lawful custody.
She said out of the 25 suspects detained for allegedly participating in an illegal procession on Tuesday, four have been released.
And Ms Katanga said police have detained seven suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) cadres for conduct likely to cause the breach of peace and malicious damage to property.
She said the suspects were detained after they allegedly damaged two window panes on the second floor of Lusaka Central Police Station where Ms Masebo was detained.
She said police officers were forced to fire teargas canisters to disperse them.
Meanwhile, three private law firms have been given consent by the Director of the Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute Masebo’s case of abuse of authority of office.
Makebi Zulu and Advocates, Keith Mweemba Advocates and PNP Advocates have been permitted to prosecute Masebo in the case in which she is accused of cancelling hunting concessions and terminated contracts of employment for Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) senior officers between 2012 and 2013 when she served as Minister of Tourism and Arts.
Acting DPP Fulata Siyunyi allowed the three law firms to prosecute Masebo after their request to take over the matter in a letter dated September 14, this year.
The consent to prosecute is contained in a letter written yesterday by Ms Siyunyi to Makebi Zulu and Advocates.
Masebo is charged with two counts of abuse of authority of office contrary to Section 21(1) (a) of the Anti-Corruption Act number 3 of 2012.
Particulars of the first count are that Masebo, being a public officer, namely Minister of Tourism and Arts, abused her authority of office by cancelling the procurement process of tender number ZAWA /DG/002/2/12 for hunting concession without following laid down procurement procedures.
In count two, Masebo allegedly abused her authority of office by terminating contracts of employment for senior ZAWA officers without following laid down disciplinary procedures.
The acts are said to be arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights or interests of the country and other persons.
The offences were allegedly committed on unknown dates but between December 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 in Lusaka.
The matter comes up for trial on Friday.