A senior clerk of court at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has testified that the case record for the woman who originally trafficked in the ephedrine that a magistrate and others are accused of stealing could not be traced when they searched for it in the court register.
Didie Kangwa, who is currently on suspension, however, admitted that he did not see the said accused persons steal the drug.
This is the matter in which suspended Lusaka-based Magistrate Maggie Tantameni is jointly charged with Felix Mkandawire, a court interpreter and Francis Mphanza, a senior public prosecutor with three counts of abuse of authority, removal of property under lawful seizure and stealing of 34.0 kilogrammes of ephedrine valued at K1,870,000, but they all pleaded not guilty.
Kangwa was jointly charged with the three counts, but the State entered a nolle prosequi in his case.
He is also jointly charged with five other court officials and two businessmen in another matter for allegedly trafficking in 24 kilogrammes of cocaine and theft of the same.
When the matter came up for continued trial, Tuesday, before Chisamba-based magistrate sitting in Lusaka, Susan Mangilashi, Kangwa told the Court that before his suspension, he was an overall supervisor and exhibit officer.
“The procedure for exhibits when produced before court, the court interpreter will fill in the exhibit form and after court session, the forms and exhibits are handed over to the exhibit officer. The exhibit officer and the interpreter sign in the form, a copy is given to the interpreter and exhibit officer. And exhibits remain with the exhibit officer,” Kangwa explained.
He testified that in December, 2017, he collected exhibits in form of drugs, made a list and submitted it to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) for destruction.
Kangwa said on the day of destruction, when he and the team from DEC were loading the drugs, DEC enquired about the two bags of ephedrine, which they had not seen physically on the list.
He said he checked together with them in the exhibit room, but they did not find the said drugs they were looking for.
Kangwa said he told them he had never seen the drugs before and they promised to bring more details.
He testified that later on, DEC brought the name of Beatrice Saili, the woman where the said ephedrine was seized from.
Kangwa, however, told the Court that when he assigned someone to look for the names in the register, the case could not be traced, neither was the case record found.
“I assigned Mr Jere to look for the names (Beatrice Saili) in the register. His response was he could not trace the case. Another day, Mrs Mwansa came with a register from DEC where she showed me details about the case. We searched for the case, we never found it, including the case record, was never traced,” he narrated.
Kangwa said he got the details and told the DEC officer that he would find out from the particular interpreter to see who was handling the matter since in their register, it was indicating Magistrate Tantameni, whose interpreter was Mkandawire.
However, he testified that when he asked Mkandawire, he expressed ignorance that he could not remember the said matter.
“I gave him details of the date if he can find out from any of his colleagues in court so that I can report to DEC. I gave him time to make a follow-up, [but] the answer was still the same: that he could not remember the matter,” Kangwa said.
He told the Court that later on, Mkandawire stopped going for work, claiming to be unwell.
He said he then reported the matter to then Chief Resident Magistrate (CRM) Kenneth Mulife, who instructed him to charge Mkandawire and make efforts to find out where he stays.
Kangwa added that Mkandawire was away from work from May to August, 2018.
He said in August 2018, he wrote a letter to the CRM for further guidance as he could not find Mkandawire and he was advised to report the matter to the police.
Kangwa also told the Court that he does not know where the said drugs are as he never saw them.
In cross-examination by the defence lawyers, Kangwa told the Court that when he reported the matter of the lost drugs to the police, he was locked up and subsequently charged and arrested for the said offence, together with the other accused persons before a nolle prosequi was entered in his case.
He admitted that he did not see the three accused persons steal the ephedrine.
Kangwa also admitted that he did not ask each and every employee at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court about the whereabouts of the said drugs, but only searched where they kept the exhibits.
Trial continues today, Thursday.