STATE agents have threatened to use force on UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s deputy press secretary Brian Mwiinga after he refused to be used as a key state witness in a case the opposition leader is charged with issuing seditious statements against President Edgar Lungu.
Last Tuesday, police on the Copperbelt fired live ammunition at Hichilema’s entourage in Luanshya and later searched for Mwiinga and prime TV reporter Kalani Muchima, before allowing the opposition leaders passage to attend to their court case.
Mwiinga has been promised ‘a job of his choice’ should he agree to turn against Hichilema in the Luanshya case, but he has refused saying there is no way he can be witness in a case he did not understand.
In one recording, a state agent who identified himself as Bwalya, assured Mwiinga that the State would not abandon him should he agree to their proposal as President Lungu and some named government officials, who wanted the matter to be disposed of quickly, would protect him.
He, however, warned Mwiinga that force would be applied on him should he continue refusing to avail himself.
Other state agents – Edward Mambwe using mobile number 0967910545, Aubrey Hamweene on 0975678192 and Shonga (0979654280) – also phoned Mwiinga with similar threats in trying to force him to agree to testify against Hichilema.
“The President is aware (that I am approaching you). The President is aware that there is you. I was talking to the minister (Bowman) Lusambo, ‘where are you?’ [he asked] and I told him I am in Lusaka. Ati [Have you finished recording the statement? Let me know when you finish so that I inform the President]. That is how the government works…hahahaha, you are known by the President’,” Bwalya, who travelled from Ndola last week to force a statement from Mwiinga, said.
“You will be forced to do that [testify against Hichilema] and if you are forced, you will be dumped, that’s the danger. I have given you an example; we have done this before.”
When asked by Mwiinga whether the President was aware of what he was telling him, Bwalya said, “When I go back, that is why I wanted to go back tonight so that by tomorrow morning, I table this, I table your concern besides what the President was told, we now formalise the things and say, ‘The witness [Mwiinga] is ready and he is the one who did this and this and the question is what guarantee is the State giving after testifying?’ There is no issue here, I would have rushed there tonight and then early in the morning, we would have tabled it and now put it into writing, the Commissioner, IG, State House, so that they don’t…they don’t write anything…the document which will follow…the President is just….the President is driven by his security wing, we have done that.”
He told Mwiinga that the matter was dragging because of his delays.
“I have to jump on the bus from here, I have to get back to Ndola. So you are the only one remaining. All your concerns will be taken into consideration and you will never hear anything before the courts about you, I’m sure, that I can assure you. If you hear that, come to me and withdraw the statement. As a witness, I’m assuring you of safety. Where do I sleep? You know the time I arrived? 02:00 hours; just to come and get your statement and to rush back. For them to say ‘no, mailo, mailo’, they might think that I am just bringing alarm, you know these are serious issues, do you hear that? Why can’t you give a statement then? Start thinking over it?” Bwalya said after Mwiinga told him to give him time. “Iwe (you), also you have to see the other side of the State. The state wants to close this matter fast, that’s why they want me, tonight I should reach Ndola; tomorrow morning we should discuss what you are saying, your concerns, so that the commissioner can also eh…you know we have already informed the minister, even the President will be aware, so that when he looks in the diary, where…where…that happens, where…where…where, eh…so just do it fast mwana. What will happen is that when trial starts, we will be bringing parties. You might even testify under decision because the number is too big. We will be escorting them, we shall be bringing three, adjourn, three adjourn, three adjourn to make sure the witnesses that we bring testify. What I am trying to say is, as from now, nobody will (testify), but immediately you testify, there will be no problem; they will be exposed. The State should come in there and then to do something, to save your life. You (journalists) have done this several times, you are a journalist, but it’s not very risky, that I can assure you; that I can assure you; unless you become careless yourself but that I can assure you.”
He warned Mwiinga that if he continued making things hard for them, the State would force him to do what it wanted, use him and dump him with no reward.
“It’s better to volunteer on your own than being forced because whether you like it or not, you just have to cooperate because they are going to force you. And once they force you, they will only use you and dump you, you see, you will have a problem. They will just come and pick you to go and testify. If you cooperate from this time and you testify, that’s the end of it; you will be whisked away, this will keep you out of danger. The President will not be angry, we have got these few things and the problem is this, and this and this, what guarantee are we giving this person?” added Bwalya.