Mzuzu Resident Magistrate Court has acquitted a truck driver of Nangaunozge Transport, Lusungu Chibisa Chirwa, who was arrested on allegation that he blocked the presidential convoy.
Chirwa, who was driving truck registration number MZ67/NA5057, was arrested at Kadikechi Trading Centre along Mzuzu-Lilongwe M1 Road.
During the time of his arrest, Chirwa was also found driving without a license, which is the only case in which he pleaded guilty. The court ordered him to pay a K150, 000 fine for this case on Monday.
But after hearing from the State on Friday, the Senior Resident Magistrate Godfrey Nyirenda found innocent on charges of blocking President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera’s convoy.
While agreeing with the State that the President’s convoy was in motion at the time Chirwa was being signaled to stop, the police did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the leading vehicle of the escort was within such a distance as to be easily recognizable by the accused.
The magistrate said this is evident from the evidence of Fred Mdalitso Sande, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, that he noticed a truck appearing at a bend from the direction of Chikangawa heading towards Mzuzu and his officers manning the corner signaled the driver of the truck to stop, but he did not comply.
“It was during the time that the accused was trying to stop the vehicle, while close to where Traffic Officer Chitimbe was, that the lead vehicle appeared. This is also evident from the evidence of Traffic Sub-Inspector Chitimbe himself who told the Court that the driver/accused never complied with stop instructions until the truck reached where he was and stopped, consequently blocking the road.
“This made Traffic Officer Chitimbe to go onto the middle of the road to signal the Presidential convoy to use a single lane. This couldn’t have been the case if the Presidential lead escort vehicle was already in the vicinity,” observed Nyirenda.
In his defence, Chirwa told the court that he indeed failed to stop in time to pave way and blocked the Presidential convoy because he was driving an articulated vehicle, which could not stop there and then to comply with abrupt signals by traffic police officers.
Nyirenda said on this, the evidence given by State witnesses was that the accused failed to stop due to over speeding of up to 70Km/hr instead of the required 50Km/hr at the area.
He said the Court’s view, per the reading of section 123(1) of the Road Traffic Act, was that the question is not about over speeding.
“If the issue was also about over speeding, it was proper to charge the accused under section 92 as read with section 167(2) of the Road Traffic Act. Rather, the question in this case is whether or not as soon as the leading escort vehicle was within such a distance as to be easily recognizable by the accused, it was reasonably practicable for him to draw his vehicle to the side of the carriageway and stop.
“To the contrary, evidence by the State was that the accused’s vehicle appeared from a bend and that the lead escort vehicle appeared as the accused was stopping thereby blocking one lane,” said the magistrate.
“This, in view of the Court, means that the leading escort vehicle was not within such a distance as to be easily recognizable by the accused so as to allow him to as reasonably practicable draw his vehicle to the side of the carriageway. As if this is not enough, there is evidence that police officers received instructions to close the road from Mzuzu State Lodge to Chikangawa.
“However, no evidence was brought before Court that the accused was aware of or told by police officers deployed in areas prior to his approaching the bend that the Presidential Convoy was in motion. This could have been done by bringing as witnesses police officers deployed before the bend to testify that the accused was aware of or warned that the Presidential escort was in motion,” added Nyirenda.
He then ruled that flowing from the above findings of facts, and considering the totality of the evidence given by both parties, the court was of the view that the State had dismally failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Lusungu Chibisa Chirwa committed the said offence.
“He is, thus, acquitted and must be released from custody forthwith, unless he is held for other lawful reasons. I also order that the detained motor vehicle registration number MZ67/NA5057 ERF Articulated Truck be released to the rightful owner,” Nyirenda ruled, adding that should the State be dissatisfied with the finding of this Court, it is free to appeal to the High Court in accordance with sections 346 and 349 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
The magistrate also ordered the police to release the impounded vehicle.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :