NINETEEN members of the Rastafarian Community in Lusaka are still languishing in Kamwala’s remand prison after they were arrested and charged with the offence of being in possession of cannabis an offence which would not attract any punitive action in most developed countries. In many states of the United States of America and Europe no offence is attached to the use of recreational marijuana, which has been decrminalised.
The 19 Rastafarians have been in Kamwala Remand Prison since July 23, 2016, and when the matter came up in the Subordinate court on Tuesday last week it was adjourned because the lawyer representing them did not show up. 19 Rastafarians were arrested while celebrating the birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie, whom the Rastafarians Community holds in high regard. A check by the Daily Nation yesterday at Kamwala’s remand prison found the Rastafarians still in custody.
Those spoken to, told the newspaper that ever since they were apprehended by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) they had never been heard in any court of law as the case kept on being adjourned. They said when they were taken to appear for mention at the Subordinate Court on Tuesday last week, the lawyer representing them did not show up making it the fourth time their case was being adjourned for different reasons.
The Rastafarians were preparing for a peaceful concert when the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) officers with guns drawn raided the farm in Ng’ombe where the festivities were to be held. And House of Rastafari elder Khuzwayo Chisi confirmed that since July 23, 2016, the case had failed to take office since the first mention at the Lusaka’s magistrate court.
Mr Chisi said the case had been postponed as many as 10 times as witnesses and lawyers for both the prosecution and defence had failed to show up. “You know Rastafarians are peaceful people. We were coming from prayers and we had visitors from all over Zambia. After coming from all day prayers, we were not expecting to be disturbed in such a violent manner,” he said. Mr Chisi said such persecution of the Rastafarian Community was a worrying trend in Zambian law enforcement.