LAWYERS representing six court officials who are jointly charged with two businessmen for drug trafficking have told the court that it is not right for the prosecution to bring a witness who was a co-accused in the matter at such a late stage.
The State on Wednesday discharged, through a nolle prosequi, Florence Mshoka, who was jointly charged with Emmanuel Chirwa, Bearvan Mengo, Mathews Mukanda, Victor Nzaila, O’Brian Muyunda, all court interpreters, Didie Kangwa, senior clerk of court and businessmen Eric Chipango and Emmanuel Chimba for trafficking in 24 kilogrammes of cocaine and theft of the same which was an exhibit in another matter.
When the case was called for continued hearing before magistrate Victoria Chitulangoma, Mshoka was called to the witness stand by state advocate Sipholiano Phiri but before she could take oath, one of the defence lawyers, Keith Mweemba, rose.
Mweemba submitted that it was not in order for the State to put Mshoka on the stand, saying they knew a lot about her considering that she was a client who was only discharged on Wednesday and they shared information when she was still an accused.
He wondered whether the State was in order to take that route and whether it was in Mshoka’s interest.
Mweemba said there were instances when Mshoka’s lawyer, Zevyanji Sinkala, was not available and he would cross-examine on his behalf and by virtue of that, they would exchange information concerning the client’s case.
He added that it would not be fair on the side of Mshoka for them to start disclosing things against her and whether it was in the interest of justice for the prosecution to make her testify in the matter.
“I feel bad because on the other hand, I may not feel good to disclose things I know about the witness and again I have a duty to defend my clients. Surely, this conduct by the State should not be encouraged,” Mweemba said as he cited the case of Jack Shamwana and others as decided by the Supreme Court.
He said the State should instead put another witness on stand so that they do not waste the court’s time.
But deputy chief state advocate Gracilia Mulenga said it was their case and the defence could not tell them how to proceed.
And magistrate Chitulangoma asked the State why they could not proceed with witnesses who had no issues to be resolved other than Mshoka but the State said the former was the one they had prepared because others were working.
The magistrate stood down the matter in order for the State and defence to discuss how they would proceed and inform her.
After several minutes, the case was recalled and Phiri informed the court that the parties’ discussions had not been concluded and did not result in anything meaningful or fruitful.
He sought an adjournment, which the court granted.
The case comes up on March 14 for continued trial.