Monday, February 10, 2014

Out of jail fighting
By Joseph Mwenda and Francis Lungu
Thu 21 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

CONVICTED sports deputy minister Stephen Masumba has wondered why MMD leader Nevers Mumba as a pastor can celebrate his misery. And Masumba says everyone is a potential prisoner bound to go through his situation. Masumba yesterday came out of jail on a K10,000 bail, pending appeal to the High Court.

Lusaka principal resident magistrate Wilfred Muma on Monday convicted Masumba of obtaining pecuniary advantage by false pretence after he obtained employment for himself from Lusaka Business and Technical College as an accounting officer using an accounting technician diploma erroneously awarded to him at the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA), but Masumba had denied committing the offence.

In an interview after magistrate Muma sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour, Masumba wondered why Mumba celebrated his being arrested.

"What kind of pastor is he who celebrates over someone's misery? Doesn't the Bible teach us to visit those in prison? I expected him to pray for me and even visit me in prison. The loss that MMD succumbed in the Mufumbwe by-election should not hurt them forever. He should not claim that he knew I had a forged certificate, firstly because that is not the offence. Secondly, he shouldn't have waited for me to join PF for him to make the claim that I had no morals," he said.

He said no one should celebrate his misfortune because everybody was a potential prisoner.

He said politicians should work hard and contribute towards lifting the living standards of inmates because there was a possibility of going to prison at any time.

"We are all potential prisoners and we can be found in this same situation anytime. Especially us politicians, you never know what comes before you tomorrow; we must endeavour to improve the conditions in our prisons.

"We need to ensure that the standards in there are conducive for habitation so that when that time comes, you can even enjoy a cup of tea and say, 'this is the infrastructure we made for ourselves'," Masumba said.

He said prisons must not be seen as places for the condemned because there were many innocent people who unfortunately found themselves in prison.

"There are many stories in there about how people found themselves there. These are not prisons for the condemned only, they are for all of us," Masumba said.

Masumba said inmates at Kamwala Remand Prison pleaded with him to teach them martial arts.

He said although the inmates offered him a 'VIP' stay while at Kamwala Remand Prison, he opted to interact with them and hear their views about society.

"They were very excited to see me. Many of them pleaded that I start teaching them martial arts whilst I was there. They even wished that I stayed there longer so that I could be entertaining them with my martial arts skills.

"In fact, there is what they call 'VIP cells' in there, but I did not agree to stay there because I felt I was an ordinary person like them under similar circumstances," Masumba said.

And Masumba restrained his relatives who attempted to hide him from cameras as he emerged from the holding cell at the magistrates court.
Some relatives prevented journalists from taking pictures and filming Masumba, attempting to cover him in chitenge materials, but the deputy minister called for order and said the reporters had a duty to report his predicament to the nation.

"What is there to hide? Have I not been found guilty? I am not coming from prison? So why are you fighting with the journalists? Who doesn't know me? Leave them to do their job and inform the nation," he told his relatives shortly before walking over to shake hands with some reporters.

Scores of youths turned up to catch a glimpse of Masumba who had been remanded at Kamwala prison since Monday.

Some youths travelled in groups from Copperbelt while others said they were coming from Solwezi to give solidarity to Masumba.

Meanwhile, sports minister Chishimba Kambwili wished Masumba a successful appeal, saying, "it is unfortunate that my brother has been found in a sad situation."

"All I can say is that 'umulandu mume bakumpulafye' (offences are like dew, you just wipe). Anybody can be found in that situation. The only thing to say is that it is unfortunate that our brother has been found in this situation and we feel sorry for him because he is a family man like you heard in mitigation. We can only hope that the appeal succeeds," he said.

Chishimba, who was in the company of his permanent secretary Agness Musunga in witnessing Masumba's sentencing, said the sports deputy minister was a good fellow.

"We came here because we work with him, he is our friend and he is a good colleague. That does not mean to say we have come here to represent government. I have come here in my individual capacity as Chishimba Kambwili, a friend to Masumba," said Kambwili.

New Revolution Party president Cosmo Mumba who also offered his solidarity joked that he was worried Masumba's popularity among youths would cause him to become president before him.

Earlier, Masumba, through his lawyer Mutekela Lisimba, told the court in mitigation that he was a first offender, married with children and that he was a breadwinner.

Lisimba said his client was of fixed abode, a member of parliament and a government deputy minister.

He submitted that throughout the course of trial, his client had diligently and faithfully attended court and had followed each instruction by the court.

"We pray that the court exercises utmost leniency in meting sentence, as your convict is a breadwinner in the family and the effects of a lengthy sentence will cause untold misery to his family, his children and to the community which he represents in Parliament. He is the law-abiding citizen hence his appointment to public office…the convict is very sorry," Lisimba submitted.

He however, noted that the offence attracted a five-year custodial sentence, but that the defence was alive to the fact that with the good conscience of the court, a suspended sentenced would still deliver the same message.

Passing sentence, magistrate Muma said he had carefully considered the mitigation and that the court knew that the offender committed a misdemeanor. He said nevertheless, the conduct of the convict was devastating.

He wondered as to how many students at the Lusaka Business and Technical College had passed through Masumba's hands as a lecturer when he was not qualified.

Magistrate Muma said Masumba's conduct was selfish and intrinsic but that in any case, it was retrievable.

"However, it is the duty of the court to protect the integrity of the nation and I feel the convict has to be sentenced accordingly so that it serves as a lesson to would-be offenders. I therefore sentence him to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour with effect from November 18, 2013. I must emphasise that I am not the last court; the accused may appeal to the High Court," he said.

Masumba's lawyers applied for bail which the State did not object to.
And magistrate Muma granted Masumba K10,000 cash bail with two working sureties who should be from government or quasi-government institutions.

The court ordered that the two sureties would not pay the K10,000 to the court as the bail was granted in their own recognisance.

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