A civil servant has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that when she queried why the ‘contract of sale’ for a house she sold to Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela was in a different name, her lawyer said it was not an issue as long as the person had the capacity to pay.

The State witness further told the Court that she sold the said house, which is situated in Makeni, to Chitotela at K1.6 million from the initial price of K2.5 million.

This is the matter in which Chitotela and three others are facing four counts of concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime.

It is alleged in the first count that Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited, between July 3, 2016, and October 30, last year in Lusaka, 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.

In the second count, the trio between the same dates is accused of concealing 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.

In the third count, Diris Mukange between the same dates jointly and whilst acting together with other unknown people, possessed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni in Lusaka, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

In the fourth count, Mukange between the same dates possessed part of subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill.

The matter is being prosecuted by ACC prosecutors Martin Mayembe and Muchula Silumesi, whereas the accused persons are being represented by defence lawyers; Jonas Zimba, Noel Simwanza, Mark Haimbe, among others.

When the matter came up for commencement of trial before Magistrate David Simusamba, Wednesday, the State called its first witness Mary Lubinga, an Assistant Director Human Resource Administration at the Ministry of Local Government.

Lubinga, 54, who is currently residing in Chilenje South, told the Court that prior to her shifting to Chilenje South in December 2016, she was residing at her property, plot 148/50A in Makeni South.

She said at the beginning of 2015, she put the property up for sale and advertised it with a number of estate agents.

Lubinga said around August 2016, she was approached by one of the agents that there was a client that was interested in viewing the house.

She said when the agent came with the client, the client was introduced to her as Mrs Chitotela.

Lubinga said after viewing the house, Mrs Chitotela expressed interest in purchasing the house and asked her to reconsider the initial price.

“We then proceeded with her to view the house and she expressed interest in purchasing the house. However, she indicated to me that I should reconsider the price that I have put on the property, which was K2.5 million,” Lubinga narrated.

She recalled that Mrs Chitotela then indicated to her that she wished to discuss the matter with her husband, Chitotela, so that he could also view the house before making a final decision.

“After that, Mrs Chitotela called me that I’m coming to view the house again. She did come through. (Together) Mr and Mrs Chitotela viewed the house and I was told they would contact me with the final decision,” she said.

Lubinga said after some days she received a call from Chitotela who asked her to go to his office at Government Complex and while there, an amount of K1.6 million was agreed upon and the matter was then referred to the lawyers for both parties to proceed with payments agreements.

“In his office, we had a discussion on the price of the property and I was asked to reconsider on bringing the price down to around K1.6 million. I indicated that I will consider it if the Property Transfer Tax could be paid. He agreed on that and he proceeded to ask for my bank details. I indicated that on my part the transaction was to be handled by my lawyer. He indicated that he was going to give instructions to his lawyer to proceed with the transaction,” she explained.

Lubinga said when she later went to her lawyer’s office to sign a contract of sale, she discovered that the purchaser’s name on the contract was ‘Diris Mukange’ and not the actual Chitotela whom she had negotiated with.

She said because she had never dealt with the said Mukange, she asked her lawyer if that would pose any problems in the future in relation to her, but her lawyer told her that it would not as long as the person had the capacity to pay.

“In my scrutiny of the contract document I noticed that the purchaser of the property had been indicated as ‘Diris Mukange’. I raised the issue with my lawyer, I indicated to him that that was not the name that I was expecting on the contract. I asked him if it could present the problem for me. The advice I was given was that as long as the person had the capacity to pay, it should not be a problem. I then signed a contract,” Lubinga revealed.

When she was asked in cross-examination by the defence lawyers if she was aware that Chitotela was out on campaigns during the period she alleged to have met him at his office because it was a period for the 2016 general elections, the witness said she was not aware.

According to her, Chitotela was in Lusaka.

Lubinga, however, admitted that in August, 2016, Zambia held its general elections and that Parliament was dissolved in May the same year.

She also admitted that the sale of the property was between her and ‘Diris Mukange’ because that was what the contract of sale stated.

The witness said she sold her property because she had some financial problems.

Trial continues and look out for verbatim in the subsequent editions of News Diggers.