The State on Monday paraded two Tobacco Commission (TC) officials as witnesses in a case where a Zomba-based woman is being accused of flouting the Tobacco Industry Act of 2019.
The woman, Fanny Likole, was arrested on April 22 2021 for being found in possession of tobacco without a licence following a patrol TC officials conducted on illegal vending and cross-border trade.
She is answering three charges of buying tobacco without a licence, illegal growing of tobacco, and buying tobacco at an unlicenced premises which contravenes the Act. She appeared before the Zomba Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
First to be paraded was TC principal classifier Kulinji Kupindu, who told the court that on April 22 2021 during a patrol exercise, they met the woman carrying tobacco leaf in her hands at Mayaka Trading Centre in the district.
Through examination-in-chief by police prosecutor Roderick Kamwana, he told the court that when the woman saw two officials from TC and two police officers, she started to run which prompted them to follow her.
Kupindu further said they pursued Likole all the way to her home which was close to the market where they asked her what she was doing with the tobacco in both her hands and more that was found hanging within her compound.
He told the court that the woman said she had bought the tobacco and was drying some of it in the sun. However, she failed to produce a licence.
Kupindu further told the court that upon the patrol team entering her house, they found 15 bales of tobacco with more leaf not packed in bales.
He told the court that the team persuaded her to go with them to National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (Nasfam) offices to process her licence to enable her to be legally purchasing the tobacco, but upon reaching the Nasfam offices, the police officers told her that she was being arrested for contravening the Tobacco Act; hence, took her to Thondwe Police Station.
But during cross-examination by the defence, Likole’s lawyer Timothy Chirwa argued that the woman was not found in the act of buying tobacco nor did the TC officials get the bales of tobacco as evidence.
However, Kupindu told the court that they could not get the bales of tobacco as at the time they did not have a vehicle to carry the bales. He, however, said they took pictures and a few sample leaves as evidence.
But the defence further argued that the patrol team did not find any scales used in buying the tobacco or a jack used to process the bales as required.
Taking his turn in the witness box, TC enforcement and liaison officer Emmanuel Banda told the court that since the woman did not produce any documentation to show that she was legally mandated to buy, sell or grow tobacco, they had to take her to police to get arrested.
He further told the court that the woman also confessed to them under oath, which he administered, that the tobacco was hers.
When Chirwa asked what law he used to administer the oath, Banda told the court that the Tobacco Industry Act gives him power in line with his job to administer oaths under such circumstances.
But before the State paraded its third and final witness, Chirwa asked for an adjournment.
First grade magistrate Jones Masula then adjourned the hearing to June 7 when the State will parade the third and final witness before closing its case as the prosecution.