Guard testifies in Chitotela concealing case

A SECURITY guard has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela became his boss after he purchased a house from Austin Liato. This is in a matter where the Pambashe member of parliament, Brut Holdings Limited and two others stand charged with two counts of concealing property and two counts of possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

In count one, Chitotela, Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited are, between July 3, 2016 and October 30, last year, in Lusaka, alleged to have concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime. It is further alleged that the trio, between the same dates, concealed part of subdivision A lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. Testifying before principal resident magistrate David Simusamba, Samuel Sikoswe said he recognised Chitotela as his boss after Liato told him so.

“I was approached by the ACC officers whilst on duty at a house in Ibex Hill which is opposite the American Embassy. They asked me who the owner was and I said it belonged to the minister. They asked me who the previous owner was and I said it belonged to Liato,” Sikoswe said.

He said he told the officers that he was a worker at that the house but added that Chitotela later on became his boss.

“I further told them that when the house was put on sale, there were a lot of people coming to view the place. Mr Chitotela [later on] became my boss. Because he used to bring items or things to use. He also brought furniture in the house. Then he brought Catholic sisters to start renting the house,” Sikoswe explained.

When asked in cross-examination to confirm whether the lawmaker gave him any documents to prove that he became his boss, the witness said since he became a guard, he has never signed any documents relating to his work. Sikoswe said Chitotela became his boss in 2016. He said the type of furniture that was taken to the house were beds, chairs, cupboards, and that Chitotela’s workers and his wife were the ones who delivered it to the house. When the Chitotela’s lawyers asked him whether ACC officers had threatened him in the morning with an arrest if he did not testify when ferrying him from Kafue to Lusaka, Sikoswe admitted telling the officers that his wife was unwell but they pleaded with him to testify in the case

When asked by Chitotela’s lawyer on how he managed to identify the accused when he had earlier denied knowing him, Sikoswe told magistrate Simusamba that during interviews with the Anti-Corruption Commission, he denied knowing Chitotela because it was the first time he was appearing in such big office and he was therefore afraid.

“I was afraid because it was the first time I was entering in such big offices,” he said causing the public to burst in laughter.

“What you are saying is that when you are afraid you say different things and when you are not afraid, you say different things? Today you are saying that you know Chitotela because you are not afraid?” Zimba asked Sikoswe.

The witness confirmed before court that he admitted knowing Chitotela in court because the environment was not intimidating. And a chief executive officer at the Engineering Institution of Zambia has told the court that Brut Holdings Limited which is jointly charged with Chitotela is not registered with the Institution. Newton Zulu, a registrar at Civil Engineering Institution of Zambia told the court that the Anti Corruption Commission approached him finding out whether Brut Holdings Limited had applied to register with the National Council for Construction.

Zulu told magistrate Simusamba that he advised ACC officers that he could not respond to their request without checking the Government Gazette.

He said on May 27, 2019, he wrote a letter to the Anti-Corruption Commission confirming that Brut Holdings Limited was not registered with EIZ.

He told court that he does not know whether Brut Holdings engaged registered engineers to render their services.

He added that registered engineers could practice as consultants.

Earlier, two witnesses testified that a dossier for registration purported that they were consultants of Brut Holdings Limited.

According to Abel Ngandu, a civil engineer, the document contained his qualifications and curriculum vitae without him submitting them to the said company.

“The document purported that I was a shareholder with 20 per cent shares and that I was a managing director of the same company without my consent,” he explained.

“I am neither a director nor a shareholder of the said company and I have never met the accused,” said Ngandu.

And Kapemba Siwale told the court that the documents depicted that he attended a board meeting at Brut Holdings.

“I was surprised I never gave them consent to my qualifications for the registration of the NCC, they purported that I attended a meeting when in fact not,” said Siwale.

Trial continues on May 29.

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