Lusaka businessman Yuyi Lishomwa on Friday testified in court about the hostility his family is getting from the family of late former health permanent secretary Dr Garvin Silwamba, who drowned during a hunting trip last year.
But Dr Silwamba’s widow, Violet, also told the court that as a friend to her husband and the person who went with him on the hunting expedition in Blue Lagoon National Park, she had expected Lishomwa to sit down with the family after her husband’s burial and explain the circumstances around the drowning.
This is in a matter of an inquest into the death of Dr Silwamba before Lusaka magistrate Bartholomew Kaongo, which came up for hearing on Friday.
Lishomwa, 69, a businessman of house number 4046 Lukulu Road in Lusaka’s Sunningdale area, said he had known the late Dr Silwamba since 1972.
“Over the years we were very close. In short, we were family friends,” Lishomwa said. “In June 2009, Dr Silwamba suggested that we go hunting over the weekend. I told him that it was not possible.”
Lishomwa said he was expected to go hunting for hippos in Siavonga in the company of his son over the same weekend.
However, Lishomwa said after realising that Dr Silwamba was serious, he was compelled to accompany him to Blue Lagoon.
Lishomwa said in the morning they decided to shoot some birds and that he sent somebody to go and get a canoe.
He said when he saw the canoe, he disagreed with assertions that it could take eight people.
Lishomwa said he decided to leave Dr Silwamba and another gentleman at the harbour and proceeded into Namiyona River with a paddler and a ZAWA officer to hunt birds.
“After being on the water for about 30 minutes, I saw Dr Silwamba in a canoe with a paddler and I said to him ‘mwana, (my friend), we can’t hunt in the same area. It is dangerous’,” he said. “Dr Silwamba went into a different direction with a paddler and they went out of vicinity.”
Lishomwa said after sometime he saw a canoe approach with a lone paddler.
“He only pointed to the harbour and said ‘balya mwaciba nabo nabafwa (your colleague has died)’ and I asked ba nani (who)? And he said ‘balya bene mwaciba nabo (the same person you were with)’,” Lishomwa said. “The news devastated me so much.”
Lishomwa said after returning to to the harbour, they reported the matter to the ZAWA officers and later at Shibuyunji Police Station before bringing Dr Silwamba’s body to UTH.
“The relatives had an opportunity to inquire how Dr Silwamba met his death. I attended the burial. Up to now I am still shocked and saddened by his death,” Lishomwa said. “It was one of the most devastating experiences of my life because I had known him for 40 years and in the latter part of his life, the last 20 years we became very close.”
Lishomwa said the first person he informed of Dr Silwamba’s untimely death was his brother Eric Silwamba.
“After the burial we experienced a lot of hostility from the (Silwamba) family and that is myself, my elder brothers and also my relatives, even my wife to the extent that when we came back from the graveyard we came and joined a group of senior relatives…and they stood up and went and sat on the other side leaving us to ourselves,” Lishomwa said. “Thereafter I tried to contact Eric, I even went to his office twice, to no avail. My lord, it is very painful for me because the gentleman we had lost I interacted with him more than my brothers who are here.”
In cross-examination, Lishomwa said he was unable to expeditiously inform Dr Silwamba’s family of his demise because there was no cell phone network in the immediate area.
But in her testimony, Violet Silwamba contended that Lishomwa had never bothered to call the family after her husband’s burial to even to know how they were fairing.
Violet said he expected Lishomwa to have done this and also sit down with the family and explain the circumstances around her husband’s demise.
The hearing continues on June 4.