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State witness testifies in court officers’ drugs case

THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has heard how businessman Emmanuel Chimba, who is jointly charged with seven others, demanded a refund of K80,000 from court officials after they allegedly failed to supply him with cocaine.

In this case, Emmanuel Chirwa, Bearvan Mengo, Mathews Mukanda, Victor Nzaila, O’Brian Muyunda, all court interpreters, Didie Kangwa, a senior clerk of court and businessmen Eric Chipango and Emmanuel Chimba, are charged with trafficking in 24 kilogrammes of cocaine and theft of the same which was an exhibit in another matter.

Testifying in the case before magistrate Victoria Chitulangoma, Florence Mshoka, 36, who was a co-accused in the matter but whom the Director of Public Prosecutions a fortnight ago entered a nolle prosequi in her case and turned her into a State witness, recounted how Muyunda asked her in confidence if she had received any money from Chirwa after the sale of the drugs.

Mshoka told the court that Muyunda told her that after she requested him to pay her money for office shoes and trainers she sold him.

She said Muyunda wondered why she was reminding him to pay when she had received money from the alleged sale of drugs.

Mshoka said when she insisted to Muyunda that she had not received any money, the latter did not agree and told her she was just pretending.

She said Muyunda told her that Chimba was his friend and that he took drugs to sell, adding that he was to give her part of the money.

Mshoka said she was disturbed by what Muyunda told her and she tried to convince him that she did not get any cut.

She said she sent a text to Muyunda to ask the “Benz guy’s number” – in apparent reference to Chimba – whom she had earlier blocked after he started inviting her for drinks which she was not interested in.

Mshoka said she asked Muyunda to give her Chimba’s number because the one she had was not going through but he did not give her.

She said during the same first week of January 2017, between 15:00 and 16:00 hours, Chimba walked into her office and asked to speak to her in privacy because there were other people in the office.

Mshoka said she was not comfortable to stand with Chimba by the corridor outside the office and he proposed for them sit in his car in the car park.

She testified that they greeted and Chimba told her that he was out in Tanzania.

Mshoka said Chimba told her that his main purpose for the visit was to get a refund of K80,000.

She asked Chimba what the refund was all about and he told her that he gave her friends money the past weeks.

Mshoka said she asked Chimba what the money was for and he replied it was money for the drugs.

She asked how much it was but he did not say and just answered that he gave them K80,000 and needed a refund or they give him drugs, but she expressed ignorance.

Mshoka asked Chimba who he gave the money and he said it was given to Victor Nzaila and Matthew Mukanda.

Mshoka said she denied having received the money and he said he had been calling Chirwa, Nzaila and Mukanda but they were not picking calls.

Mshoka said Chimba suggested that she uses her phone to call them on conference.

Mshoka said Chimba gave him a number to dial on her phone and because it was a conference call, she was to call Chirwa first but he did not answer.

She said she called for a second time but Chirwa answered and cut the line after he heard Chimba’s voice.

Mshoka said she then called Mukanda who also did not pick the phone.

She called Nzaila but he also did not answer.

Mshoka said her Samsung phone did record the calls she was trying to make to her colleagues.

Mshoka identified her Samsung Edge phone which recorded the calls she was making to Chirwa, Mukanda and Nzaila and applied that she produces it as part of her evidence, but defence lawyers led by Keith Mweemba objected.

The defence said the phone could not be admitted into evidence because Mshoka had rightly told the court that the phone had a password when she handed it to the Drug Enforcement Commission officers.

Another defence lawyer, Jonas Zimba, adopted Mweemba’s submissions.

On the other hand, the State through deputy State advocate Gracilia Mulenga insisted that the phone be admitted into evidence.

She said the witness was competent to speak about the contents of her phone.

Ruling was reserved to April 1

Earlier, Mshoka gave a lengthy testimony of how she became suspicious of Chirwa’s activities.

She told the court that sometime in August 2017, Chirwa and Muyunda went to an office where they used to operate from upstairs before they were asked to vacate the room in the company of Chimba and another gentleman.

She told the court that Chirwa and Muyunda asked her to excuse them from the office and she obliged.

Mshoka said after Chirwa, Muyunda and another gentleman met in the office, they locked themselves in as they deliberated.

She said when they left the office, there was a choking smell in the office despite the windows having been open.

Mshoka said since they were asked to stop working from the office upstairs as it was not an interpreters’ office, she moved to her friend, Betty Zulu’s office, who was operating from the switch board due to lack of office space.

Mshoka said in September 2017, Mukanda also joined them in Betty’s office and Chirwa used to frequent the office.

She said she became suspicious with Chirwa’s movements in and out of the office while picking things from the locker.

Mshoka said Chirwa was the one that used to keep the keys for the same locker and one day he locked it but forgot to carry the keys.

She said she got the keys where Chirwa left them on top of the locker and opened, and on the last shelf, there was a black backpack and when she checked inside, there were six transparent plastics which had white content that looked like sugar or salt and each pack was labelled with a green marker “one kg”.

Mshoka said she quickly put everything back in the locker and locked it.

Mshoka said she did not know who the owner of the backpack was but later discovered that it was for Chirwa as it contained a folder for school which had his names.

She said after some time, Chirwa returned and asked if she had seen the key to the locker, which he found where he left it on top of the locker.

She said Betty then came from the court where she was sitting and she told her that she was suspicious as Chirwa kept going to open the locker for some time and Betty said that was where the accused kept some of his exhibits.

Mshoka said in the same month, when she went to the office, she found Chirwa had already reported for work by 06:00 hours, which was unusual.

She said she found he had opened the locker and it appeared like he was about to lock but she ignored him.

Mshoka said during the day, he went back to their office and asked her to keep his backpack that he normally carries to school.

She said Chirwa told her not to move and keep the bag.

Mshoka added that when she was given the bag, she smelt the same choking smell that she had smelt in the office upstairs.

She said she opened the bag and found three parcels sealed with masking tape and she did not know what it was.

Mshoka said in no time, Chirwa picked his black bag and left.

She also testified how she found Chirwa removing the contents of the parcels that were masked with tape and putting them on a newspaper.

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