Dickson Jere
Dickson Jere

By Dickson Jere

Judge Yvonne Chembe of Ndola High Court has come under unfair attack.

Many strongly believe that the 10 years jail sentence she slapped on a young girl of Ndola for “smoking weed” was harsh. Others are even comparing her case to those who have walked away with a 5 year jail term for killing (manslaughter), which appears to be a serious offence than “smoking weed”.

But those attacking the Judge are missing a crucial point. She was legally right to slap the girl with 10 years jail sentence.

Here are my reasons:

Firstly, the young girl was not sentenced for “smoking” marijuana but “trafficking”. This is how the law works in Zambia. When you are caught with marijuana below 0.5 grams – you can successfully argue that it was for consumption.

However, by law anything above 0.5 grams is regarded as trafficking. So prosecutors don’t have to prove that you were selling but rather that you had quantities above 0.5 grams. That’s it. That is the law as promulgated by Parliament. Judges are supposed to merely follow the law!

Secondly, Parliament, in its wisdom passed a law that says when you are a second offender for drug-related cases, you are supposed to be jailed for a mandatory sentence of 10 years. Judges cannot go against this provision as it is the law for the time being under Section 44 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

So before we throw stones on a poor Judge, try to understand the law. Don’t blame the Judiciary but Parliament!

It reads; ” Any person convicted on a second or subsequent offense for trafficking shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years”. The law is precise.

Now let’s get to the Ndola girl.

She was convicted for “trafficking” and not “smoking” as it has wrongly been presented to the public. I understand she had 17 grams of marijuana which is way over the 0.5 grams. She is a second offender – meaning she had served jail before for drug-related offense. So what did you expect the Judge to do?

Simply put, Judge Chembe was under the legal obligation to apply the law as it is and sentence her to 10 years! If the Judge ever tried to reduce the sentence, she would have committed misconduct.

So before we throw stones on a poor Judge, try to understand the law. Don’t blame the Judiciary but Parliament!

Those with strong views about this law should lobby parliament to make amendments and allow Judges to have discretion on such cases.

In short, the Judge interpreted the law when she slapped a 10 years jail sentence. That is the law. Those not agreeing with the interpretation can appeal.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. social media has given an audience even those who don’t read to issue comments. Thanks Mr jere

    Its very embarrassing to have masses of people who don’t read

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    • 0.5 grams and under for personal consumption?

      What?

      And no need to prove intent to sell if over 0.5 grams?

      Zambian laws are backwards.

      American enforced these draconian laws on the world or threatened sanctions in the 1970s, and now look at them… They are “pioneering” legalisation and making 2 million USD in tax a week in a single state.

      Zambia is backwards.

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    • Please Mr Jeremy stop jusfying injustices in our justice system. I personally have seen hard drugs accused persons being given suspended sentences or lesser sentences just because they are rich and gave something to the judge. Go to our prisons if you’ll find rich drug dealers in there. But with poor CHAMBA peddlers, these filthy prisons are their second homes, why only them?

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    • It’s a shame that the so called laws are only applicable to the poor.
      Judges should start by dealing with the root of the matter before unleashing stupid Laws left by colonial fools on helpless and weak people. Remember the same law used on these defenseless citizens will one day be used on the same Judges. Shame!! Thieves and Criminals are roaming the street daily and no Law is being applied to secure any conviction.

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    • Look let’s call a spade a spade, the Judge did not have the child’s interest at heart. When the Judge said and I quote Lsk Times “the law will help you change” by sentencing this girl to ten years was clearly a sarcastic statement. Judicial Review of this matter if the Judge really felt her hands were tied by legislation in passing sentence was an option. Mr Jere you are not being fair in your analysis, the lady Judge was too harsh on a child who deserves guidance, not a death sentence. It’s easy for you to belittle the magnitude of being locked away in such a manner, if it was you or someone close to you I know you would not be so emotionally detached, this poor child’s life unless some intervention takes place is finished.

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    • Speaking of Parliament, when is the Ministry of National Guidance going to open an office an Parliament Motel where a good number of these so called Law makers fornicate with prostitutes and married women? Which is worse that or a young chap smoking weed on their own? Let’s forget about our MPs they are only interested in gratutity, allowances, salaries and the latest SUVs that they will be given by the State, they don’t care about harsh repressive laws killing the people who voted them into power. God above this is TRUELLY the punishment we the deserve for electing such uncaring, selfish MPs be they PF or UPND into Parliament. I hope lessons are being learnt.

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  2. Legally right, in many cases, is never ethically or morally right.
    This heartless and foolish “judge” should be removed from the bench and sentenced herself to obligatory training on humanity and basic human rights.
    Any and all monetary benefits she received or will receive should be given to the victim(s) of her “judgements”.

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  3. “anything above 0.5 grams is regarded as trafficking.”

    I don’t think there’s a coffeeshop in Amsterdam where you can buy 0.5 gram. Minimum is 1 gram.

    “I understand she had 17 grams”

    Which again could easily be for personal consumption. The 0.5 gram rule makes no sense.

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    • Can all peace loving people especially the medical fraternity petition the UN, USA, EU and the International Criminal Court (ICC)
      to pressure Zimbabwe govt to release Dr Peter Magombeyi. This pattern of abductions has worsened even after Mugabe’s fall.
      Watch “EXCLUSIVE! Names of Dr Peter Magombeyi Abductors Revealed” on YouTube

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  4. In case you forget a Chinese national was fined k2000 for selling weed in January

    “https://www.lusakatimes.com/2019/01/11/chinese-national-fined-k-2000-for-illegally-growing-marijuana-plants/”

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  5. Unfortunately, evil drug dealers/cartels are using the young and women in lower society stratas to play their trade. This poor girl is possibly a victim of poverty.

    I hope they can allow her a shorter time in jail if she shows willingness to change. An appeal or review of the law would probably fail. She will be 10 years wiser and be an example to others trapped in this trade for survival.

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  6. Mr. Dickson Jere, you are also missing the point. The point is that marijuana should ideally be legalized for recreational and medicinal uses. This poor girl is a victim of obsolete and anachronistic colonial laws inherited from Britain. Had that been the case, this young girl wouldn’t have gone in for 10 years.

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    • Keeping the bad laws copied from colonial masters who condemned smoking of marijuana because the weed when inhaled emboldened the suppressed to resist oppression. In the USA laws against marijuana use before the now known scientific advances were for justifying mass incarcerations of less privileged people of color. Such laws in Zambia still work against the lesser privileged in society who fill prisons.

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  7. Kukonda Vizungu you child of colonialism. No wonder they say education can evaporate ones common sense with a single line from an outdated text book. Chamba is now legal to trade in developed economy and here is a chap from a country in so much debt that this boy can’t afford a news paper to follow how laws on the sale of Marijuana are changing. I leave it here with such embracement that in Zambia we still have useless young minds like this author still in his colonial classroom

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  8. In a Christian nation what happened to forgiveness or is it a privy of dubiously rich??? Mr Jere karma is a bitch and I hope you never have to face any injustice, remember what hoes around comes around, it may not be you necessarily but could be someone you dearly care for. Mulekwata uluse

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    • If it was a Christian nation such biblical doctrines of forgiveness would have been adopted into our laws. The label Christian nation is just used to hoodwink the blind followers of this religion so they can vote for the president who supports it. Which president has behaved like a Christian in Zambia? None

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  9. Nanga weo mambala weyiba banana bangu ngako nekuleka because you helped me fix Rajan. That’s why nenzofuna tichipoke bank lomba BoZ yekana

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  10. It’s very unfortunate that Zambia is still under Draconian laws despite being independence for so Many years, Smoking weed privately it’s not a crime above 18yrs, Are you still following the laws for Ian Smith? Shane on You!

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  11. Just Legalize it $tup!d!
    Parliament should not be the excuse!
    Wisdom is better than Laws!
    Those who need wisdom should use weed! If weed makes you mad then you are not wise to start with!

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  12. You see this is what happens when you are stuck and trapped by your former colonial masters’ statutes. Also, the caliber of parliamentarians cannot articulate laws and required amendments adequately. We need to start examining ourselves and applying our intellects to amending our laws in equitable fashion. Even those ridiculous speed limits are a result of ubupuba and thinking 1 mile is equivalent to 1 kilometer.

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  13. But again, the information in the article was insufficient. There was no mention of quantities involved and it was “smoking” and not trafficking as you want us to believe.

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  14. That if you are in possession of any amount above 0.5 grams is considered trafficking , just says it all.
    If we are still interpreting laws at that level of reasoning , in this day and age, and still accepting it as normal without doing anything about it , then we will never develop. We shall forever be happy to accept grants, donor aid and handouts from developed countries while our leaders enjoy hefty allowances and get chauffeured around in brand new expensive motor vehicles , while the poorest look on and cheer.!

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  15. Anyways thank you Mr Jere for clarifying the issue . Are you the one who was a Police boss?

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  16. Sometimes we try too hard to be intelkectuals. The point here is that she has condemned a child who could have rehabilitated. Her life is ruined over her youth indiscretion. 10 year will just harden her as a criminal. There is no injured part in this case . Most of us experimented with marijuana in our youthful days but turned our lives around …10 years in jail has ruined a child for a non violent crime.

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  17. The law is properly explained and the judge acted according to the law………but the heartless judge forgot our Zambian jails are prisons not correctional centers!!!!!!!!!!!!! A poor child will not come out alive after 10 years or she will come out as a worse trained criminal who will not only pusher drugs only but also a killer as well……….Change those jails from prisons to correctional centers were people come out with skills and crafts for human and societal development…………………

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  18. People are criticising the law, not the judge! The law is retrogressive – the increased ridiculous sentences were steamrollered through parliament by Chiluba to support the USA’s failed and still failing “war on drugs” in the 1990s. Zambia needed to show a quota of drug arrests to fulfil US Aid conditions, and since the only drug in Zambia is the relatively harmless weed (except for a very small number of rich people reportedly using the country as a route for Mandrax and heroin smuggling who have somehow have never been identified nor arrested), it is the poor people with a little weed sacrificed cynically with lives destroyed, all at significant cost to the public purse (but I suppose the US Aid money pays for the jail?). Why not give the woman a job so she can contribute to society…

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