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Thursday, 30 June 2011

A Tragic Tale of Injustice

A recent monthly essay chronicled the poverty of Zambian justice. This news story is yet another tragic tale of the current injustice in the "justice system" : 

One one evening of January 2003, Raphael Nondo was arrested and labeled a dangerous criminal. And for the next seven years the life of the 58-year-old retired soldier was a living hell. He was arrested, detained, tortured and subsequently released after the Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi – seven years later. Nondo relieves the trauma of his ordeal.

“I was at Chazanga club where I was drinking from when I just saw a group of police officers who came and told me that I should accompany them to Matero police. I asked them why, they just told me that I would find out when I got to the police,” says Nondo who was released last year. “Whilst in detention they asked me where my cousin Roy Chisanga was who they thought I was working with to commit crimes. I told them that I did not know his whereabouts because I was not staying with him. We went to the police where I was tortured. I asked them why they were torturing me they said there was something they were investigating about me.”

Nondo was then shackled because he was believed to be an extremely dangerous criminal. He faced charges of theft, aggravated robbery and unlawful supply of firearms to criminals.

“I remember they called then police spokesperson Brenda Muntemba and they told her that they had caught a dangerous criminal, an ex-soldier who is believed to have been terrorizing people in Lusaka. The news caught me by surprise because I did not know what was happening to me. They paraded me and other four accused on ZNBC TV and put name tags. They put me in shackles on both legs because I was considered a dangerous criminal,” he says.

According to Nondo, his wife, Gwen Nondo, and children only learnt of his arrest after they saw the television footage during the main news. This, he says, was the worst thing to have happened to him.

“On the 6th of January 2003 while watching the ZNBC main news my wife saw me. She was confused, that was how she came the following morning. I was just as shocked as she was and we did not even talk about it. That was how she left and went back to the Copperbelt,” Nondo says.

Nondo, with other accused persons, was paraded for witness identification but he was not identified by anyone.

“No one from the victims was able to identify me as one of the criminals that terrorised them while the other accused young men were identified. I thought it was unfair for me because I was arrested without a warn and caution statement. I asked why they just told me to keep quiet,” he says.

Nondo was remanded at Lusaka Central Prison and later moved to Kabwe Maximum Prison to help decongest the Lusaka prison.

During his detention, Nondo never appeared in court. However, he was later scheduled to appear in court on June 26, 2010.

“I was not allowed to appear in court but the other accused did and my name was not appearing on the list where the others were appearing. I told them that my name was not appearing but ‘why was I being kept in prison’. That was how they replaced my name with one of the boys who was missing from the accused people and all his cases were given to me,” he said.

He adds; “After seeing that my rights were being infringed on I decided to write a Habeas corpus to the judge because the police did not have any docket on me. Then later I was allowed to appear in court but there were no witnesses. I pleaded not guilty to theft and aggravated robbery. While the others were found guilty on all charges and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After that I received a nolle prosequi from the DPP Director of Public Prosecutions. They said they did not find me with any case to answer.”

Nondo says the business he was running at the time could not be sustained after he was arrested.

“I was running a hardware business then and the little money I had went to my wife and my six children’s feeding and travels from the Copperbelt to Lusaka. All my children stopped going to school because there was no one to support them whilst I was in prison,” he says.

As Nondo was languishing in detention, his wife suffered a stroke and later died.

“My wife could not handle the pressure of seeing me in prison. My children would cry every time they visited me. Then sadly my wife had a stroke and that was how she died. I was not given a chance to mourn my wife and I did not even attend her burial and that still hurts me up to now,” Nondo says.

“They took away my freedom and they did not give me a chance to bury my wife. All this was done to me even when I was an innocent man. My children are now not with me because I cannot take care of them. I also rely on family members to help me because am also living with my sister.

“The experience changed me and I came to know God. It was a nightmare being labeled a dangerous criminal. The police thought I was supplying my cousin with firearms knowing that I was a retired soldier.

It makes me sad because I did not know that my cousin was a dangerous criminal when I knew that he was working as an accountant in one of the banks.”

Nondo says he would want to be compensated for the trauma, humiliation and for being paraded on national television as a dangerous criminal.

1 comment:

  1. That is totally unfair!! What a sad reality!!


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