An accomplice witness in a matter where six court officials and two businessmen are accused of trafficking in 24 Kg of cocaine has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that she pretended to be part of those who were stealing cocaine exhibits so that she could expose them.
Florence Mshoka claimed that because she was the court interpreter in the court where the said 24 Kg of cocaine was an exhibit in a case, she planned with a Mr Mwanja, her immediate supervisor, to expose three of the court officials who were allegedly selling the drug by conniving with them.
However, in cross examination the State witness admitted that she did not see any of the accused persons trafficking in the said cocaine.
Meanwhile, a defence lawyer accused the witness of trying to make herself an angel in the eyes of the court.
In this matter, court interpreters Emmanuel Chirwa, Bearvan Mengo, Mathews Mukanda, Victor Nzaila, O’Brian Muyunda; Didie Kangwa a senior clerk of court and businessmen Eric Chipango and Emmanuel Chimba are charged with trafficking in 24 kilo grammes of cocaine and theft of the drug which was an exhibit in another matter.
Previously, Mshoka narrated how Emmanuel Chimba allegedly demanded K80,000 refund from the court officials after they failed to supply him with cocaine.
Mshoka said in the first week of January, Chimba walked into her office demanding for his refund, saying he had given K80,000 to Nzaila and Mukanda for drugs but they were not answering calls when he tried to reach them.
And when the matter came up for continuation of trial before magistrate Victoria Chitulangoma, Tuesday, Mshoka continued with her testimony saying after attempts to contact Chirwa, Nzaila and Mukanda proved futile, Chimba suggested that he would deal with her directly.
She said Chimba then pulled out a black plastic from the passengers seat which contained about six transparent plastics with salt like substance.
Mshoka said Chimba gave her the substances to swap with the cocaine which was in the exhibit room.
“From there, he said since he had been disappointed with the turn of events from the three, he suggested that he should deal with me directly because I was the court interpreter before honourable Kenneth Mulife. I asked him how I was going to do it, then he got a black plastic from the passenger seat and inside the black plastic, there were about five or six plastics which looked like salt or sugar. He said that was I was going to use the substance to swap with the cocaine that was in the exhibit room,” she testified.
Mshoka claimed that because she was the court interpreter in magistrate Kenneth Mulife’s court where the said 24 Kg of cocaine was an exhibit in another case, she planned with her immediate supervisor, to expose Chirwa, Nzaila and Mukanda who were allegedly selling the drug to Chimba, by acting as if she was part of the group.
“I was called by Mr Mwanja being my immediate supervisor and we started planning on how we can expose the trio. The reason was because the cocaine was my responsibility because I was the court interpreter in honourable Mulife’s court. We planned that if any of the guys appear, I should not confront them one by one, but as a group. The other plan was that if they gave me any of the monies that they had got from Chimba from the sale of drugs, I should report to Mr Mwanja and then report to the then Chief Resident Magistrate, honourable Mulife. He said I should seem like I’m part of the deal so that they can give me my part also,” she said.
And as trial continued, Mshoka told court that Mukanda and Nzaila acknowledged having received the K80,000 from Chimba and that they invested it in a business but however, Chirwa expressed ignorance.
“Third week of January that’s when I managed to get hold of the trio. I asked them about the same money that Emmanuel Chimba had come to inquire from me. Matthews Mukanda acknowledged receipt of K80,000 from Emmanuel Chimba while Chirwa expressed ignorance. Mukanda told me that ‘don’t worry I will give you your cut but some money has been invested in a stone business in Solwezi’. Equally Victor mentioned that he had invested the money in some business. That’s how we abandoned that conversation with the hope that I will get some money from them,” she said.
“I kept pestering them on the same cut on different dates in January but they did not give me the money. I asked Mr Mwanja what to do since I failed to get the money from them and whether he had informed the clerk of court of the happenings at the complex regarding the same issue. In response, he said he was waiting for me to get the money so that we can have some sort of evidence.”
Mshoka further testified that in the second week of February, 2018, the then acting Senior Clerk of Court Didie Kangwa, called her to his office and informed her that the cocaine had been tampered with.
“He asked where I was on January 31, I told him I was sitting with honourable Mulife. He asked me if I had received any exhibits that day and I said no. He asked why I didn’t pick any exhibits, I told him there was no need for exhibits because the matter was just coming up for a ruling not trial. He went on to say that ‘we have a problem, the exhibits have been tampered with’. I asked him to say ‘how did you know’? He said 1kg of the exhibit is missing,” she said.
“So we walked to the exhibit room and for sure I found there was some whitish powder on the floor of the exhibit room. Some packets were broken. He smelt and said this is cassava meal. I asked if there was any person who had come to pick the exhibits, he mentioned that Mr Mwanja on that day picked the exhibits and brought them to court for trial. I asked him whether he had informed the boss, the CRM, he said he was confused and didn’t know what to tell honourable Mulife and needed time to think about it.”
And as the witness continued giving her testimony, at some point defence lawyer Keith Mweemba accused the witness of trying to make herself an angel in the eyes of the court.
He said Mshoka was an accomplice witness who is trying to make herself look nice.
Concluding her testimony, Mshoka said she was later on arrested after police and Drug Enforcement Commission officers searched at her house and interviewed her at DEC offices.
“Days later I was arrested and charged with trafficking in narcotic substance and I was taken to Lusaka Central police where I was detained waiting for court hearing. I was also charged with theft of 24 kg of cocaine,” she said.
When she was asked in cross examination who reported the theft of 24 kg of cocaine to the police, the witness said, “I don’t know, just rumours that it was the clerk of court (Didie Kangwa).”
However, when the counsel pressed on if it was in dispute that Kangwa (also an accused) was the one who reported the matter, Mshoka said she wouldn’t dispute.
And when she was asked if she saw any of the accused persons trafficking in cocaine, the witness said she I didn’t.
Trial continues on Thursday.