Freemuse is pleased to learn Zambian musician Chama Fumba, also known as Pilato, and five other human rights activists have been acquitted of “disobeying lawful orders” in the course of a peaceful demonstration outside Lusaka parliament on 29 September 2017.
The six were charged after a protest march criticising the government for buying 42 fire trucks for USD 42 million, saying it was a misuse of public funds.
After court on 21 December 2018, Pilato told Freemuse the magistrate ruled the group did not have a case to answer.
“Acquitted”, he simply said on social media.
— pilAto (@iampilato) December 21, 2018
Pilato has repeatedly faced death threats, harassment, censorship, exile and prison over the past five years.
In January 2018 he fled to neighbouring South Africa due to death threats over his song Koswe Mumpoto (Rat in the Pot), which is said to criticise Zambian President Edgar Lungu. Unable to attend a court hearing over charges related to his participation in a September 2017 peaceful protest, a warrant for his arrest was issued in February.
He returned to Zambia in May and was arrested. But after an attempted attack on the musician in September, he again went to South Africa, according to Pulse.ng. Another arrest warrant was issued in November when he failed to appear in court; he returned to Zambia in December and was re-arrested.
On 18 December 2018, Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile released Pilato on bail, saying he was justified in fleeing the country.
“I have had the opportunity to watch the video that he tendered before court. His life was indeed threatened and the police did not do anything,” Mikalile said, according to Pulse.ng.
“The threats ought to have been dealt with by the police”.