An administrator at Twalumba Lodges in Chalala area has narrated to the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court how some police officers searched one of the rooms at the lodge in the absence of a client who had booked it after they allegedly harassed and forced her to open it.
Flaviour Syamunyeu, 28, further testified that the said officers warned her to be careful when checking in people at the Lodge or they would accommodate thugs.
She said this was after the officers found a big white plastic bag in the corner of the room.
Syamunyeu was testifying in a matter in which 13 Leadership Movement (LM) party members, among them, party president Richard Silumbe and his secretary general Brown Sinyangwe are charged with one count of possession of offensive weapons or materials.
The accused persons include Silumbe, 38, a surgeon of Woodlands; Sinyangwe, 24, secretary general of the party, Yamikani Zulu, 37, security guard, Finod Mukubesa, 38, a security guard of Chawama, Gilbert Daka, 37, a Kamwala South truck driver and Isaac Chibuye, 24, unemployed of Kalingalinga.
Others are Lazarus Zimba, a 47-year-old businessman of John Laing, Edward Chicheleko, a 27-year-old security guard of Matero, Dismas Chanda, a 27-year-old minibus driver of Kamwala South, Amos Tembo, a 28-year-old minibus driver of Kamwala South, Elias Banda, a 27-year-old driver of Kanyama, Joseph Chimwendo, a 29-year-old artist of Kanyama Site and Service and Prella Chinga, 30, of Chinika area.
Particulars of the offence allege that Zulu, Mukubesa, Daka, Chibula, Zimba, Chicheleko, Chanda, Tembo, Banda, Chimwendo, Chinga, Sinyangwe and Silumbe, on October 14, 2019 in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together and without lawful excuse, had in their possession offensive weapons namely 54 Machetes, six High Power Stun guns and 13 Short Battons.
When the matter came up before chief resident magistrate Lameck Mwale for trial, Monday, Syamunyeu testified that she worked at the reception of Twalumba Lodges and that her duties were to welcome the guests and checking them in the rooms.
She told the court that on October 14, 2019, she was on duty in the afternoon when a group of Police officers walked in at the reception and asked her where room four was.
Syamunyeu said there were about four or five officers, one of them in a police uniform and others in plain clothes.
She added that she knew that there was someone in room four, but did not know who it was.
The witness said she got the keys to room four and went with the officers.
Asked by the State why she went to open the room, Syamunyeu said it was because of the way the officers approached her.
“They were harassing me, like ‘lets go you open room four, we want to check something’,” she said.
“I opened the room for them and they entered. They started searching. I do not know what they were looking for. Others went to check in the bathroom.”
Syamunyeu said after the officers finished searching, they asked her to lock the room but after a few minutes, she was asked to open it again.
She said when they searched the second time, they found a white plastic bag, but added that she did not know what was in it.
“This time around, they checked and got a white plastic bag which was in the corner of the said room. From the way I saw it, there were things inside that plastic. The plastic bag was quite big, not like the normal plastics we use for shopping,” Syamunyeu said.
“One of the things I heard them say was ‘mukazinkala (you should be) careful or else you will check in thugs’…”
She said when they got the plastic, they asked her to lock the room again and then left the lodge.
The witness said after that, she called her boss and explained to her everything that had happened.
In cross examination by defence lawyer Keith Mweemba, the witness admitted that the said police officers did not bother to show her a search warrant, but just went and harassed her.
She further admitted that she did not have an opportunity to search them to see what they may have been carrying in their clothes.
“Because of fear, you simply decided to do what they wanted?” asked Mweemba, to which the witness said “yes, I was scared”.
Asked who imparted the fear in her, the witness said it was the police.
Syamunyeu further admitted that to this day, she does not know the contents of the white plastic.
Asked if she had any proof to exclude the danger that the police may have tricked her and put the said plastic in the room without her realising it, the witness responded in the affirmative.
Syamunyeu further said the person who had booked the room was not present both times it was being searched.
Meanwhile, another witness testified that Leadership Movement party was a legal entity which was registered with the Registrar of Societies.
Margaret Chibenda, 50, a registration officer at the Registrar of Societies, told the court that she was in charge of registering new societies.
“Usually when a client comes through our offices, they will get an application form which they have to fill in. It is then taken to the nearest police station to sign. The form has to also pass through the nearest council offices so that they also sign on their provision. Then the form comes back to the office with attachments, which include copies of NRCs of the 10 office bearers that have been written on the application form; police clearance, that is finger prints which have to be cleared by the police; and a recommendation letter from a line ministry. They should also attach a copy of their constitution,” Chibenda said.
“We go through to make sure everything is correct and we make them pay for their registration. After payments, the registration process starts and when everything is in order, a certificate is issued within 48 hours. We register women’s clubs, churches and political parties.”
She testified that on December 7, 2018, she received an application from Leadership Movement which was just for payment and an amount of K5,000 was paid.
Chibenda said she started processing the registration on the computerised system and when it was approved, a certificate of registration was issued on December 11, 2018.
In cross examination, the witness said Leadership Movement party was a legal entity and that was why it was issued with a certificate.
Chibenda added that for now, the Registrar of Societies had no issues with it.
The matter comes up on March 18, 2020 for continued trial.