|Pastor Acquitted of Sexual Assault
By Charles Musonda
Zambia Daily Mail
March 20, 2009
THE Lusaka magistrates’ court has acquitted a 67-year-old pastor of Kafue of indecent assault charges.
Magistrate Aridah Chulu on Wednesday acquitted James Gondwe, who was facing five counts of indecent assault for allegedly molesting five of the girls he was keeping at Bethel Orphanage where he is director.
In her judgment, Mrs Chulu said the evidence from the prosecution was not strong enough to prove allegations levelled against Mr Gondwe.
It was alleged that on unknown dates, but between June 1, 2001 and October 28, 2006 he sexually assaulted the girls on different occasions in his office and in his house.
The court heard that Mr Gondwe would call the girls, one at a time, and fondle their breasts.
The girls told the court during trial that Mr Gondwe also used to suck their breasts, hug and kiss them, and insert his fingers in their private parts. They said these incidents happened over a period of more than five years.
One of the girls told the court that on one occasion, Mr Gondwe allegedly had sex with her in his bus when she was sick.
The girls said they did not report the incidents to relevant authorities then because Mr Gondwe allegedly warned them that if they did so, he would deregister them from his orphanage.
Mr Gondwe’s former secretary, Helen Chisense, testified that she used to observe him hug and kiss the girls.
Ms Chisense said later all the victims narrated to her that Mr Gondwe was sexually assaulting them, but she did not report the matter to Police immediately because she wanted to gather more information.
In his defence, Mr Gondwe told the court that all allegations against him were false and that his late wife’s relatives, who were interested in the orphanage, fabricated the story.
He said this was after he refused to share the property with his former in-laws after his first wife’s death.
He admitted hugging the girls but that the hugs were innocent, just like any father would hug his children.
In the judgment, Mrs Chulu said for the prosecution to prove allegations against Mr Gondwe, it should prove each and every ingredient of the offences.
She said the prosecution should prove that it was the accused who committed the offence and that the offence was indecent, unlawful, and that the accused did not have the right to act in such a manner.
Mrs Chulu said it was not in dispute that the girls lived at the orphanage. She said it was also not in dispute that they were in Mr Gondwe’s custody and, therefore, he was well known to all of them.
She said it was a fact that although the alleged offences started in 2001, no report was made against Mr Gondwe to relevant authorities until after a number of years.
Mrs Chulu said the girls complained of similar abuse.
She said their reasons for not reporting the incidents were similar.
A close examination of the girls’ evidence revealed striking similarity in each of their complaints.
Mrs Chulu said there were untruthful statements given by both the prosecution and defence.
“Because of the inconsistency in the prosecution’s evidence, I doubt if what is alleged against the accused is true. I find that the prosecution has not sufficiently proved the charges against the accused and I acquit him forthwith,” she said.
After the verdict, Mr Gondwe and his relatives jubilated and shed tears of joy outside the courtroom.
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