Martha Nkwanzi, a daughter to the late businessman Henry Katanga has been remanded to Luzira Prison for destroying evidence in the murder of her father who was killed two months ago.
Nkwanzi surrendered herself to the court on Wednesday afternoon. The court was presided over by Nakawa Chief Magistrate, Erias Kakooza who had on Monday issued a warrant of arrest against her.
Court has heard that on November 2, 2023 at Mubya Chwa Ii, Nakawa Division, Kampala Capital City, knowing that diverse things at the scene of crime may be required in evidence in a judicial proceeding, Nkwanzi and Patricia Kankwanzi removed or destroyed them or rendered them illegible or undecipherable or incapable of identification with intent thereby to prevent them from being used in evidence.
The two daughters are jointly charged with their mother Molly Katanga who is reportedly admitted for injuries she allegedly sustained during the incident.
Molly Katanga remains on criminal summons issued by court requiring her to appear on the 22nd / January to answer for her husband’s murder.
The three family members are further indicted alongside the family’s Shamba boy George Amanyire and a medical practitioner Charles Otai. Both men are charged with being accessories after the commission of murder when they allegedly assisted the widow and her two daughters to escape punishment yet they knew the trio were liable for an offence.
Nkwazi through her legal team asked the court to allow her to take a plea in the charge. But that sparked off a lengthy argument after the Prosecution side objected to it.
However, on Wednesday, amidst lengthy court proceedings the Prosecution led by State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya and Anna Kiiza objected to Nkwanzi taking plea forcing court to take a break and resume later on.
Muwaganya objected on grounds that Nkwanzi appears on the same charge sheet where the first suspect is charged with murder which can only be tried by the High Court. Muwaganya said plea-taking is a trial process where only a court with competent jurisdiction to try the matter can entertain the plea of the accused person.
He asked the court to only communicate to the accused person the charges against her.
Nkwanzi’s lawyers comprising MacDusman Kabega, Ellison Karuhanga, and Bruce Musinguzi said that two days ago, the Prosecution applied that their client be arrested to appear in court to take plea and prayed for a warrant of arrest and there is no way they can start saying she shouldn’t answer to the charges when she has even brought herself to court.
He said the offense the court has read to her prescribes the sentence not of life nor death, and therefore it is a misdemeanor that attracts seven years imprisonment once found guilty.
As such, Kabega added that under Section 161 (1) a of Magistrates Court Act-MCA states that the court presided over by the Chief Magistrate which Kakooza is, may try the accused person unless the sentence attracts death, provided it’s for custodial sentence.
Kabega thus insisted the Court that Martha Nkwanzi must take plea for the offence of which has been read to her.
According to Kabega, the fact that she is on a charge sheet where the first suspect is charged with murder doesn’t in anyway allow the Nakawa Magistrates Court’s jurisdiction to run away from trying this offence.
He added that the Prosecution has not provided Court with any provisions of law where an accused person can be stopped from taking plea where the court has jurisdiction.
To support his case, Kabega has submitted that the other suspects on remand took plea before the same presiding Chief Magistrate, and that the Prosecutors who are the very people who framed the charges were in court didn’t complain.
But the Prosecutor Muwaganya insisted on his stand, saying the law stated by Kabega doesn’t address the question of several accused persons appearing on the same charge sheet with a mixture of capital and non capital counts. Muwaganya said in this case, there is no explicit legal provision in the Magistrates Court Act that empowers the Magistrates Court to entertain plea in one count on a charge sheet bearing a capital offense.
He added that even this case has been registered in the Capital Offenses Register of Court and given a capital offense number which all indicate that he has no jurisdiction over the matter.
The Prosecutor said the Guidance of the High Court in several cases has been that where offenses are capital and others not capital, the the jurisdiction of the gravest offense takes precedent over the other misdemeanors.
According to Muwaganya, whereas plea was taken for the other accused persons, that exercise is subject to revision in the High Court and the gist is to correct the exercise of plea taking.
He explained that as that matter is still pending in the High Court, it is only right and proper and prudent that they await for the guidance of the High Court before Court can determine whether or not to ask the accused person to take plea.
In his ruling after about two hours break, Kakooza ruled that the court has jurisdiction to take plea. He said when other accused persons were arraigned before him,they took plea and the Prosecution didn’t contest it. As a result, Nkwanzi has taken plea and denied the charges against her.
Later, Kabega applied for bond saying the law provides that a person can be released on bond even without sureties saying she is a mother of three children including a young one who is one month old born shortly after the death of Katanga.
In his ruling on this, Kakooza said there is need to be consistent and since he has already been informed that the hearing of the criminal revision application by the DPP has already been fixed for Tuesday next week for hearing, it is proper for the outcome before he can go ahead with hearing the bail application for Nkwanzi.
Now Nkwanzi joins Kakwanza, Amanyire and Otai on remand at Luzira prison as the widow Molly Katanga remains issued with criminal summons requiring her to appear in court on 22nd/ January 2024 for last November’s murder of her husband Henry Katanga.
All the accused persons are expected to return to court on that day.
Both the accused persons and the complainants in this case are well connected to powerful people in the government.
This website has reliably been told that the families last night met a top leader in the State, who assured them that justice will be served in this case.