ZAMBIAN model Mercy Mukwiza has testified before the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that photographer Cornelius Chella Tukuta once asked her if he could take nude pictures of her but she refused.

And Mukwiza has denied claims by Chella that Northern Province Permanent Secretary Charles Sipanje opened a shop for her at East Park in exchange for sexual relations with him.

She said she has never had sexual relations with Sipanje, adding that the relationship she had with him was strictly business when she worked with him in 2015 while designing campaign materials for PF.

Meanwhile, TV personality Natasha Vandermass testified that she alerted Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya about allegations posted by Chella on his Facebook page against her that she sold young girls to high profile men.

This is a matter in which Lusaka photographer, Cornelius Chella Tukuta is charged with libel.

It is alleged that Tukuta on May 26, 2020 in Lusaka, published defamatory matter affecting Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya in the form of a video on Facebook that “This Dora Siliya is hooking up girls, selling girls to the high profile people, so that men can be sleeping [with them], she is actually the highest of the highest professional prostitute. If Dora Siliya is refusing these allegations that she does not connect girls to high profile people for sex, let her come”.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and trial commenced with Siliya testifying in the matter as the first prosecution witness.

And when the case came up for continued trial yesterday before Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale, Vandermass testified that she was the one who texted Siliya alerting her about what Chella had posted on his Facebook page against her in May, this year.

She said this was after she noticed that Chella was trending on social media after posting a video where he made allegations that Siliya was selling young women to high profile men.

Vandermass said because Siliya was a woman she looked up to, she was compelled to message her and make her aware about the allegations on social media.

She said Siliya was her mentor and was the matron for Miss Universe Zambia committee which she joined in 2017 with other members like Mukwiza and Alice Musukwa.

And Mukwiza, a 30-year-old model and entrepreneur testified that she met Chella in 2014 when she was taking part in the Zambian Fashion Week as a model and Chella was one of the photographers at the event.

She said her relationship with Chella had not been a very good one because when she was in the changing room during the fashion show, Chella sneaked in and took pictures of her in her underwear and started circulating them as his work on Facebook.

Mukwiza said Chella also sent her a message on Facebook, asking her if he could take nude pictures of her but she declined.

She added that Chella then offered to take pictures of her without her face on them, but she still declined.

The witness said while she was out of the country in Japan, she started receiving messages from some people telling her that pictures of her in her underwear were circulating on Facebook.

“Later on, I started getting messages from people that pictures of me where circulating on social media. At the time I was in Japan, representing the country. So I told Mr Chella Tukuta to take down the pictures or I would sue him when I come back home. To which he responded, ‘let’s meet in court’. By the time I was coming back from Japan, I just decided to forgive him,” she said.

On Chella’s allegations against Siliya that she sold girls to the high profile people, Mukwiza said she was very disgusted and disappointed by the accused’s remarks.

She denied Chella’s claims that the Northern Province Permanent Secretary Charles Sipanje opened a shop for her at East Park Mall in exchange for sexual relations with him.

“In relation to me, he posted that Mr Charles Sipanje, a permanent secretary opened a shop for me at East Park and that in exchange, I had sexual relations with him. The post was completely false because I have never had sexual relations with Mr Charles Sipanje. The relationship I had with him was strictly business when I worked with him in 2015. I was designing campaign materials for PF and he was one of my contact persons in PF,” Mukwiza said.

“I did own a shop at East Park called ‘Mysteriously Blu Clothing’ and I had a partner Chungu who saw a vision in what I was trying to do and decided to partially invest in the business. The shop (however) closed down.”

In cross examination by defence lawyers Linda Kasonde and Mulambo Haimbe, the witness said a friend of hers by the name of Tilyenji Mwanza was the one who introduced her to Sipanje, saying he was looking for a designer.

She denied that the relationship with Sipanje was informal and personal.

Mukwiza also described her relationship with Alice Musukwa currently “as a former colleague” and further admitted that she had disagreements with her.

And Marjory Banda, 54, a businesswoman and Siliya’s friend of over 10 years said she was saddened by Chella’s remarks against Siliya.

“I saw on social media that Mr Chella Tukuta alleged that Ms Siliya was selling girls for sex. I was saddened because I know that honourable Siliya is not that kind of a person, she likes to mentor young girls,” she said.

In cross examination, the witness agreed that she had not brought anything before court to show that she actually watched the purported video [by Chella].

Another witness, Chita Chibesakunda, a Cyber Security Technologist at ZICTA, testified that on June 18, this year, the Zambia Police requested ZICTA for assistance in an investigation regarding some derogatory remarks that were made against various individuals.

He said the request contained Facebook links that were to be downloaded by the authority.

Chibesakunda said the police also requested that ZICTA establishes as to whether the devices that came with the request letter had a link to Chella Tukuta’s photography Facebook page.

“I was assigned the case by my supervisor in which I proceeded to carry out digital forensics. There were two HP laptops, one Techno Smart Phone, a Samsung smart phone and an external hard drive,” he said.

The State witness said information from the two laptops and hard drive was extracted and analysed using a tool known as FTK Imager.

He said during analysis of the three devices, laptops and hard drive, it was discovered that one of the HP laptops had administrative access to the Chella Tukuta photography Facebook page.

Chibesakunda said he then proceeded to access the links that were provided to him in the request letter.

“Upon accessing them, I used a tool to download the videos from each of the links that were provided in the request letter. I then compiled a report with all my findings from the analysis I carried out on the laptops, the hard drive, and I also documented the processes of downloading the videos,” said Chibesakunda.

“Each screenshot has a caption with the date the video was live streamed on Facebook and the titles from the videos. The videos were then placed on a CD that was then attached to the report.”

The matter comes up on December 2, for continued trial.