A 24-year-old security guard has testified in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Courts that Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela became his boss in 2016 after he purchased a house in Ibex Hill from Austin Liato, where he used to work.
However, the security guard who is a State witness caused the court room to erupt in laughter after he admitted that during interviews with the Anti Corruption Commission recently, he told the officers that he didn’t know Chitotela, claiming that he was afraid to say so then because it was his first time appearing in such big offices.
This is a matter in which Chitotela and three others are facing four counts of concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It is alleged in one of the counts that Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited, between July 3, 2016 and October 30, last year in Lusaka, concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
It is further alleged that the trio between the same dates concealed part of subdivision A lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
When the matter came up before magistrate David Simusamba for continued trial, Tuesday, Samuel Sikoswe of Kafue informed the court that he guards people’s houses and sometimes works there.
He testified that sometime last month, officers from the Anti Corruption Commission approached him, asking about a house in Ibex Hill which was opposite American Embassy, belonging to Austin Liato.
Sikoswe said he informed them that he was a worker at that same house but added that Chitotela later on became his boss.
“I further told them that when the house was put on sale there were a lot of people coming to view the place. Mr Chitotela [later on] became my boss. Because he is the one who was bringing me items or things to use. He also brought furniture in the house. Then he brought catholic sisters to start renting the house,” he said.
When Sikoswe was asked in cross examination to confirm whether Chitotela gave him any documents to prove that he became his boss, the witness responded in the negative.
Asked at what point Chitotela become his boss, the witness said in 2016.
Asked what type of furniture was put in the house, Sikoswe said beds, chairs, cupboards, adding that Chitotela’s workers and his wife were the ones who took the furniture to the house.
Asked who lived in the house now, the witness said he didn’t know.
When the defence team pressed on the witness asking whether ACC officers had threatened him in the morning with an arrest if he didn’t testify when ferrying him from Kafue to Lusaka, the witness said: “no they didn’t tell me that.”
Sikoswe however admitted telling the officers that his wife was unwell.
He further admitted that Chitotela didn’t get any keys from him.
Sikoswe informed the court that during interviews with the Anti Corruption Commission, he told the officers that he didn’t know Chitotela because it was the first time he was appearing in such big offices and was therefore afraid.
This was after Chitotela’s lawyer Jonas Zimba wondered why the witness was claiming to know the minister when during interviews with ACC, he had said otherwise.
“I was afraid because it was the first time I was appearing in such big offices,” the witness said causing the court room to erupt in laughter.
At this point Zimba asked the witness “what you are saying is that when you are afraid you say different things and when you are not afraid you say different things. Today you are saying that you know Chitotela because you are not afraid,” to which the witness admitted.
Asked if he was a storyteller, the witness responded in the affirmative.
Further asked by the defence lawyers how long he worked for Chitotela, Sikoswe said three months.
Meanwhile, a Chief Executive officer at the Engineering Institution of Zambia told the court that Brut Holdings Limited, a company which is jointly charged with Chitotela, was not registered with the institution.
Newton Zulu who is also a registrar, told the court that the institution was approached by ACC with a letter requesting for the registration status of Brut Holdings Limited.
He said he advised the officers that he couldn’t respond immediately because he needed to check through the gazettes.
Zulu said when he checked the government gazette, he discovered that the company was not registered with their institution.
Zulu said he then wrote a letter to ACC confirming that Brut Holdings Limited was not registered with EIZ.
In cross examination, the witness told the court that he doesn’t know whether Brut Holdings Limited engaged registered engineers to render its services.
Trial continues today.