THE state has closed its case in a matter in which PF cadre Innocent Kalimanshi and 27 others are facing charges of drug trafficking, unlawful use of a vehicle and possession of offensive weapons.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges.

When the matter came up for trial before Magistrate Sanford Ngobola, Tuesday, Drug Enforcement Commission investigating officer Henry Ngalasa, 36, testified that the commission received information that unknown people were terrorising Chawama residents and abusing controlled drugs.

Ngalasa told the court that DEC together with other law enforcement agencies assembled at DEC offices before proceeding to Chawama, where an undercover agent identified the house where the unknown persons were.

He said upon reaching the house and before the team could introduce itself, the unknown people scampered in all directions but were eventually apprehended because the area was surrounded.

Ngalasa told the court that three packs of loose cannabis and 19 axe handles were found at the premises, which led to the arrest of seven suspects.

He testified that the discovered drugs were then taken to the University Teaching Hospital food and drugs laboratory where a public analyst identified them to be marijuana, with the weight of the first pre pack being 36 grams while the other two pre packs weighed 95.3 grams

The second witness in the matter, Peter Anamela, a security officer at DEC testified that on July 23, this year, the commission received information that some male persons were trafficking in psychotropic substances.

Anamela said a team was formed and at around 19:30 hours they gathered at a lodge named Tea Tree in Lilayi.

He said two male persons were found and searched but nothing of interest was found on them apart from their car keys.

Anamela testified that he asked the two men to search the officers before they could search the car.

“We allowed the two persons to search us before we searched the car which they did and said they didn’t find anything on us. I therefore opened the door and stood outside in the position that the two suspects could see me and also see the inside part of the vehicle. On the pocket to the driver’s door, I found some green vegetable matter suspected to be cannabis which was packed in a transparent plastic. I showed it to them and asked them who the owner was. They both denied. The vehicle was a Nissan Fairlady, unregistered and was green in colour. We asked who the owner of the vehicle was, one of the two suspects, I came to know as Innocent Kalimanshi accepted ownership of the vehicle,” he said.

Anamela testified that after searching the other vehicle, nothing of interest was found and the owner, Nathan Phiri, and Kalimanshi were apprehended and detained at Mumbwa Central police station for further investigation.

He said later that same night, information was received that some youths had assembled at a house and the officers rushed there and found the youths gathered.

The witness said the youths attempted to escape but were apprehended and 20 pick handles were recovered.

During cross examination, Anamela told the court that a pick handle was a dangerous weapon and could kill despite it being a domestic tool.

The arresting officer who was the final witness in the matter testified that DEC received a complaint from concerned members of the public from Chawama to the effect that a group of people who were calling themselves “Americans” were terrorizing citizens and abusing drugs.

Francis Phiri, 46, told the court that acting on the information, a team of 13 DEC officers and a team of paramilitary officers from Lilayi was incorporated.

“In the night, we went to Chawama at the offices of the so called Americans. As we approached the building, we were challenged. Little did they know that the place was surrounded, that’s when they surrendered. The search was conducted at the premises where loose vegetable matter suspected to be cannabis was found in a black bag. There was also an NRC belonging to [Andrew] Mende. After a further search in the same building, another loose vegetable matter was found and we also found 19 wooden handles for axes and two machetes. After this, we picked the eight people we found at the building,” he said.

Phiri testified that when asked about the wooden axe handles during interviews, the suspects said the owner of the premises, Kalimanshi, was in a better position to explain.

He said on July 23 around 18:30 hours, Kalimanshi was spotted driving a green sports car in John Howard area and he was tailed until he entered a lodge in Lilayi area.

“Without wasting time, the team arrived at the lodge, I went to the bar where Kalimanshi was with his friend. The team leader, Mr Namundo introduced the team to Kalimanshi and his colleague and the purpose of the visit was explained to him. Your honour, at that moment he became a bit violent, he was later handcuffed together with his colleague. The two gentlemen led us to where the cars were parked and before we could search the cars, we searched them on their bodies, and nothing of our interest was found on their bodies,” said Phiri.

“The search was extended to the two motor vehicles and in a green sports car your honour, while Mr Anamela was conducting a search in the car, he came across a small transparent plastic with suspected cannabis in it which was in a door compartment of the driver’s seat. The same was shown to Kalimanshi who refused ownership. Your honour, the search was extended to the Toyota Hilux and in the Hilux nothing of our interest was found.”

He said the following week, he took the suspected drugs seized from Kalimanshi to the UTH food and drug laboratory where the public analyst confirmed that the substance was cannabis with a total weight of 2.0 grams.

During cross examination, Phiri said he did not know if the said premises were a PF camp or not.

He added that Nathan had explained during questioning that the premises belonged to Kalimanshi and that he was just a friend, after which he was released.

Public prosecutor Lewis Kandele then told the court that the state had closed its case in the matter.

In making submissions on no case to answer, the defence lawyer said the state had failed to prove their case beyond any reasonable doubt and asked the court to acquit his clients.

The matter has since been adjourned to November 16, for a ruling on case or no case to answer.