Ex-ZAF commander convicted

THE Lusaka Magistrates Court has convicted former Zambia Air Force (ZAF) commander Andrew Sakala for theft of K1.5 million which was property of the State.

Sakala who has been remanded in custody will be sentenced on Friday, October 10, 2014.

Principal Resident Magistrate Wilfred Muma has however acquitted former Zambia National Service (ZNS) commandant Antony Yeta and former Zambia Army commander Wisdom Lopa because the prosecution failed to prove the case against them.

Passing judgment in the matter in which the three defence and security chiefs were accused of misappropriation of K1.5 million, Magistrate Muma said it was clear that Sakala received the money but it was not clear whether he shared it with other accused persons, Gen. Yeta and Gen. Lopa.

“I, therefore, convict him,” Magistrate Muma said.

Magistrate Muma said Gen Sakala received the money but he failed to account for it and that the evidence that he gave was uncoordinated.

He said Gen. Sakala acted in a dishonest manner and that when he was given an opportunity to account for the money, he brought in the issues of classified information which he failed to prove when the matter was heard in chambers.

Magistrate Muma said the money came to Gen. Sakala by virtue of his employment as ZAF commander and that it was on common ground that it was meant for special operations during and after the 2011 tripartite elections and came from the national treasury.

Magistrate Muma said Gen. Sakala’s excuse that he failed to account for the money because he was removed from office does not arise because he could have proved that when the matter went in chambers.

He said Sakala, had told the court during trial that he disbursed the money to Gen. Lopa and Gen Yeta and  120 other people including a Mr Hamaundu of Bauleni and a Mr Lazo of Makeni.

He said when Mr Hamaundu and Mr Lazo testified in court, they both denied receiving the money from Sakala.

“Gen. Sakala said, and I quote ‘I personally gave the money to the accused persons. I also gave 120 other persons and I don’t have a paper trail,” Magistrate said.

And Magistrate Muma said he acquitted Gen. Yeta and Gen Lopa because Sakala’s statements were uncoordinated.

He said the cases of Gen. Yeta and Gen Lopa were circumstantial and that the prosecution failed to prove such.

Magistrate Muma said there was no evidence to show that Sakala, Gen Yeta and Gen Lopa exchange gifts as purported by the former ZAF commander during trial.

“The prosecution failed to prove the cases of Gen. Yeta and Gen. Lopa , and therefore I send them to liberty forthwith,” he said.

Magistrate Muma said Sakala’s claims that he gave money to Gen. Yeta and Gen. Lopa makes him a witness to the duo. And after being acquitted, Gen. Lopa said he felt relieved because he was tormented by the case he was facing.

He told journalists that the experience of him appearing in court was tormenting to his family and commended the judiciary for their professional work. Gen. Lopa’ lawyer Laston Mwanabo said his client was happy that his case had come to an end and that he now needed some rest.

Gen. Yeta’s wife, shed tears of joy after the judgment was passed, and said the acquittal of her husband showed that the judiciary was independent and professional.

Meanwhile, Gen Yeta’s lawyer Sakwiba Sikota said the acquittal of his client was significant because justice had been served.

“It is always good when you have a client, who tells you the whole story, the client who is forthright with you because you will able to represent them and the truth will always come out,” he said.