74 year old Edeem charged for Chibombo tragedy

A 74 year old retired farmer of Mkushi has been charged with 51 counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and the Kabwe magistrates’ court has denied him bail.

Before Kabwe principal resident magistrate John Mbuzi was Abraham Van Edeem of plot 1481 Mkushi farming block who stood charged with 51 counts of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to section 161 of road traffic act No. 11 of 2002 of the laws of Zambia.

It is alleged that Van Edeem, while driving a Toyota Landcruiser ABH 2214 on the Great North road, a public road led to the collision of a Lusaka bound Post bus and a Congolese truck, an accident which led to the death of 51 people at John Chinena area near Chibombo district.

Magistrate Mbuzi read all the 51 counts to Van Edeem and when asked if he understood the charges, he answered in the affirmative. Mbuzi told Van Edeem that he is alleged to have been driving in a dangerous manner regardless of the circumstances including the nature and use of the road and the amount of traffic on the road.

In a parked courtroom, Van Edeem who stood and looked shocked while the counts were being read to him said he understood all the charges laid against him and was later asked to take a seat in the accused dock. He was later told by the court that the offence that he stood charged with was only triable in the high court and as such he would only be appearing before the magistrate court for case reading.

The farmer is being represented by prominent Kabwe lawyer Mulilo Kabesha of Kabesha and company  and Paul Mulenga of A.M. Wood and company.

The defence , led by Kabesha applied for bail to be granted to Van Edeem but Prosecutor  Suzne Mwakalombe objected to the application. Mwakalombe submitted that the gravity of the nature of the offence demanded that fairness be done and that Van Edeem was of foreign nationality and that he may leave the country if granted bail.

“In accordance with section 123 of the criminal procedure code, every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and your honour the accused is of advanced age (74) and has many health complications, keeping him remanded in custody may just make his health deteriorate, he suffers from hypertension, Infascenia, vein thrombosis  and has aterial problems,” submitted Kabesha.

Mulenga further submitted that Van Edeem had many investments in the country and that he is a resident of Mkushi, is able to abide by the bail conditions that may be set and that he will always attend court when called upon. “The accused has reputable sureties who are able to ensure that the bail conditions are satisfied, it is my prayer that he be granted bail,” stated Mulenga’s submission.

Meanwhile Kabesha caused laughter in court when he said that it was unfortunate that some people still looked at the colour of skin and judge the nationality of an individual, he said Van Edeem is a citizen who has contributed immensely to the nation’s food basket and some of the people seated in court had benefited from his toil. This was in apparent reference to Mwakalombe’s submission that Van Edeem was of foreign nationality.

Magistrate Mbuzi, after analyzing the submissions made by both the prosecution and the defence rejected the bail application. He said that the gravity of the offence being faced by Van Edeem was of high magnitude and that the defence had failed to establish the amount of investment he had in the country apart from the accused’s own occupation as a retired farmer.

After Van Edeem’s bail was rejected and the matter adjourned, his relatives who were in court looked shocked and made frantic efforts to console each other. He was later led to the holding cells at the magistrates’ court.