Publication Date



In a recent decision, Magistrate Jennipher Bwalya sitting in Zambia's Economic and Financial Crimes Court (EFCC) discharged former tourism minister Ronald Chitotela in a case he was arrested for, on two counts of possessing property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. Chitotela's arrest had been at the hands of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). In 2019, the ACC had signed a consent settlement with Chitotela which, apparently, gave the EFCC a basis for discharging Chitotela. Chitotela raised a preliminary issue before the EFCC, asking Lusaka magistrate Jennipher Bwalya to dismiss the matter he was recently arrested for, arguing that, under Article 18 of the Constitution, he cannot be tried for the same offence twice. He also alluded to the principle of ‘double jeopardy’. The magistrate agreed. It is our opinion that her decision was wrong in law. It is especially important to point out that Chitotela’s request was made at a preliminary stage and, therefore, as the magistrate herself pointed out, ‘the view I have taken does not in any way amount to an acquittal but a discharge of the accused.’ Since she did not elaborate on the distinction she was making in this context between ‘acquittal and discharge’, it is not clear what she intended the effect of her judgment to be.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons