16 February 2017

Tanzania: Court Allows Drugs to Be Tendered As an Exhibit

Dar es Salaam — The High Court yesterday admitted as an exhibit over 2.8 grams of heroin and cocaine that were seized from a Kenyan businesswoman Mwanaidi Mfundo alias Mama Leila and eight other people in 2011.

The admission has brought to an end a protracted legal tussle between the prosecution and defence lawyers who had successful prevented former head of forensic investigation in the Chief Government Chemist office, Ms Bertha Mamuya, from producing the drugs in court as exhibit.

Defence lawyers had argued that Ms Mamuya, who conducted laboratory test on the substances, was not a competent witness to tender the drugs which had passed through many hands.

Hearing of the case commenced on October 1, 2015 when Ms Mamuya testified but the case had to be adjourned for over a year after High Court Judge Isaya Arufani granted an objection by the defence that the witness was not competent to tender the exhibit.

Following the court decision, prosecution went to the Court of Appeal to seek guidance on the matter.

Yesterday, Principal State Attorney Edwin Kakolaki told the court that they will defer testimony of Ms Mamuya and opted to summon their second witness, exhibit keeper at the Anti-Drugs Unit (ADU) Superintendent of Police Neema Mwakagenda to give evidence.

Ms Mwakagenda yesterday told the court of how she received the drugs from officers who seized them from the accussed, entered them in the exhibit register before taking them to the Chief Government Chemist for test.

As it was in the first hearing, lawyer representing Mama Leila, Richard Rweyongeza, raised a preliminary objection, saying the witness was not yet the proper person to tender the exhibit.

"We think the prosecution is trying to put the cart before the horse. It is our humble prayer that before the exhibit is admitted it must be properly identified. I want know if what they want to produce in court the same substance that were allegedly seized with the accused, taken to ADU and to the government chemist for testing? He asked.

Responding to the objection, Mr Kakolaki asked the court to dismiss the objection because Mr Rweyongeza didn't cite any principal governing admission of exhibits that has been violated.

Justice Arufani later sided with prosecution and admitted the exhibit. Hearing of the case continues today.

The woman is also wanted in the US to face drug charges. She and other suspects were listed in 2010 as wanted for questioning by the US and some EU authorities over drug trafficking.

She is charged along Tanzania women Sarah Munuo and Aisha Kungwi. Others are Almasi Said, Yahya Ibrahim, Rajan Mzome and John William and Kenyans Anthony Karanja and Ben Macharia.

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