FORMER special assistant to the president for press and public relations Amos Chanda, his wife and sister in law have pleaded not guilty to charges of using insulting language and obstruction of Anti-Corruption Commission officers during a recent search.

This is a case in which Chanda, his wife Mable and her sister Ruth are charged with use of insulting language and another count of obstruction.

In the first count, particulars of the offence are that Chanda, on October 27 in Lusaka did use insulting language on the officers from ACC namely; Friday Tembo, William Chilufya and Christopher Siwakwi in due execution of their duty to which he said “idiots”, “you criminals” and other words to that effect, conduct likely to give provocation to the said officers so as to cause the said officers to break the peace or commit an offence.

In the second count, particulars of the offence are that Mable and Ruth on the same day, jointly and whilst acting together did use insulting language repeatedly on the officers from ACC namely; Mbonyiwe Ndalameta, Lomtuzi Bili, Neeta Kufekisa, Swithen Lusaka, Christopher Siwakwi, Friday Tembo, William Chilufya and Clement Chansa, in the due execution of their duty to which they said “ba***nyo”, “kuti nami donsa am***pe”, “imwe ba***la”, “ch***la ch***so”, “bakolwe” meaning “va***as, I can pull your la***a, pe***s, monkeys” and other words to that effect, conduct likely to give provocation to the said officers so as to cause the said officers to break the peace or commit an offence.

In the third count, the trio, on the same day, allegedly obstructed and delayed officers from the ACC namely senior investigations officer Friday Tembo and others in lawful exercise of their duty to search house number 67 Elm road, Woodlands, Lusaka by dishonestly stating that the keys to the bedrooms were with another person who had traveled out of town when in fact not.

When the matter came up for plea before Chief Resident Magistrate Dominic Makalachi, Wednesday, the trio pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against them.

After plea, the state informed the court that were ready to proceed with trial as they had already prepared two witnesses.

ACC investigations officer, William Chilufya, 34, then took to the stand and told the court that on Wednesday, October 27, a team of investigators, being supervised by a named Friday Tembo were tasked to conduct searches at three different locations belonging to Chanda.

He testified that the team prepared search warrants for the three locations which were endorsed by a magistrate of the subordinate court.

Chilufya told the court that on arrival at the first location which was in a farm area known as Njolwe, Chanda was not at the farm but the manager was present and the warrant was executed on him.

He said after the warrant was signed, the said farm manager requested that he contacts Chanda via his mobile phone and the request was granted by the supervisor.

The witness testified that the farm manager called Chanda and he was instructed to put the phone on loud speaker.

“I cannot recall everything exactly as was spoken but I do recall very well that Mr Chanda requested to speak to one of the officers. It was at this point that I recall hearing Mr Chanda on the other end of the phone as he spoke with Mr Friday Tembo challenging him with the legality of the search and using the term, ‘don’t be stupid’ telling Mr Friday Tembo,” he testified.

Chilufya said the search was conducted smoothly in the presence of the farm manager who did not raise any issue apart from requesting for a phone number, which was given to him.

He told the court that on his way to another location, he received a phone call from Chanda which he recorded, bearing in mind the conversation that he had with Tembo.

“Whilst on the way to the said location, I received a phone call from a person who identified himself as Mr Amos Chanda. Bearing in mind what had happened at the farm in the conversation Mr Chanda had with Tembo, I decided to record the said phone call conversation that I had with Mr Chanda. I do recall that in the conversation, the caller identified himself as Amos Chanda and informed me that he had arrived at the farm and asked what the search was about,” he said.

“In my response, I informed him that I could not disclose the actual contents of the search and that it would jeopardize our investigations. I also in that conversation, made mention that the team was proceeding to another location around state lodge area that was subject of an investigation. It was at this point that I hung up the call.”

He testified that he was not part of the search at the State Lodge location as he was assigned to Woodlands, which is Chanda’s residence.

Chilufya told the court that Chanda, in the presence of his lawyer, Lusenga Mulongoti, arrived at the said property and a search warrant was administered to him with difficulties.

He added that Chanda then requested that the officers be searched by himself before they could access the property.

“When we entered the said property finally, Your Honour, Mr Chanda continued challenging the legality of the search and issuing statements that I considered harassment and insults. He issued statements like we are criminals, we are foolish, we are rubbish, and that the said inquiry was a mere witch hunt…this went on for the entire period of the search,” he said.

Chilufya told the court that Chanda was directing the said words at everyone who was participating in that search.

“I felt very offended and so were my other colleagues and we kept on restraining each other from taking action on him and we did not want to be swayed from our actual goal of the search,” he said.

Chilufya said whilst the search was going on, the officers were divided into groups, performing different tasks and he was assigned to be at the gate with Lusaka.

“Whilst I was at the gate, the third accused came and forced herself to enter into the said premises that were under search. It was at this point, Your Honour, that we explained to her that she could not access the said property. In her response as she forced herself in, she uttered the words ‘idiots’ at both myself and Swithen Lusaka, she then went on to utter the word, baf***la and pushed her way in. I was very aggrieved your honour, I was very upset and I actually wanted to follow her and confine her. I was restrained by my colleague Lusaka and Siwakwi who was coming outside to check on what was transpiring as the situation ensued,” he said.

Chilufya said when he went inside to check on the search, he found that two bedroom doors could not be accessed as it was purported that the person who had the keys to the said bedrooms was out of town on the Copperbelt, forcing them to break the two doors.

He testified that Chanda’s sister in law Ruth tried to stop Siwakwi from searching one of the bags in one of the locked rooms saying it contained a first aid kit which belonged to her father.

“Your Honour, it was at this point that the two ladies who kept on challenging officers, one in particular [Ruth] tried to stop Siwakwi from searching one of the bags as she claimed the contents of the said bag were a first aid kit belonging to her father, the old man I mentioned earlier. We later discovered that the room belonged to the said old man who was present during the search,” testified Chilufya.

He said throughout the fracas, Ruth and Mable kept hurling all sorts of insults at the officers like “bakolwe”, “you are poorly paid”, “you are grade 12s, if it’s proper employment you want, we can employ you”.

Chilufya then played the audio recording of the phone call he had with Chanda but no insults or abusive language was heard in the said audio.

Asked during cross examination by defence counsel Timmy Munalula how many houses were searched, Chilufya said two, one belonging to Chanda and the other one belonging to his in-laws.

He also said he didn’t have any challenges searching Chanda’s house as he had complied, but he kept challenging the legality of the search.

And when asked whether the officers conducted themselves professionally, he responded in the affirmative and further refuted insulting any of the accused persons.

When asked what the officers had found or picked at the farm, Chilufya said he was not at liberty to disclose what was taken or found at the farm because it was an ongoing investigation.

He further refuted assertions that the insults were fabricated because they were not able to find anything in their search.

The matter was then adjourned to November 22 for continuation of trial.