TWO Lusaka pastors allegedly swindled former EcoBank Zambia Limited managing director Charity Lumpa out of over K75,000 which they got under the pretext that they would supply her with moringa seedlings, a magistrate has heard. This is in a case Charles Harris, 57, and Tobias Timbani, 54, both pastors, are accused of obtaining money by false pretenses. It is alleged that between April 3, and May 29, last year, Harris and Timbani, obtained K76,000 from Ms Lumpa by falsely pretending that they had Moringa trees for sale.
The clergymen, who are also Yahat Green Limited directors, denied the charge. When the case came up for trial yesterday before magistrate Betty Malupenga, Ms Lumpa told the court that the suspects swindled her out of K76,000 by purporting that they had moringa seedlings for sale. She said that when the clergymen failed to deliver the seedlings, she demanded for her refund considering that months had passed without the project materialising.
“The two pastors were paid the money in two installments of K25,000 cheque and another US$5,000 but never fulfilled the agreement of growing the moringa seedlings,” Ms Lumpa said.
Earlier, she told the court that she was introduced to Harris and Limbani by some unidentified person and later an arrangement was made to meet Harris at Woodlands Shopping Mall to discuss the moringa business. “After the meeting, I went with the duo [Harris and Timbani] at my Chifwema farm to check whether the [moringa] trees can be planted but they advised me that the land was rocky,” Ms Lumpa narrated. She said around March last year, the suspects took her to Chisamba to look for a suitable land for growing moringa.
“When I drove back to Lusaka after viewing the place, I went to their office at Provident House on Cairo Road where I signed a contract,” Ms Lumpa said. She said it was agreed that they plant four hectares of moringa. It was also resolved that the suspects would purchase the seedlings and prepare the seeds and later plant them at a cost of K76,600 which they needed to be paid.
Around April last year, Ms Lumpa gave a cheque of K25,000 to Timbani who personally went to collect it from her home. She said the following month, after Harris sent her a schedule of what was going to be done, she sent him the balance of US$5,000, an equivalent of K51,600. Ms Lumpa said after sending the money, it was difficult for her to figure out who was managing the moringa project between the two suspects.
“I kept on inquiring about the issue of the seedlings but I was being told that the rate of success would be poor because it was June,” she said. Ms Lumpa said by August last year, nothing had been planted, a development which prompted her to demand a full refund. A grace period of up to November last year was given to the suspects in which to return the money.
“When the time came for the pastors to pay back the money, pastor Harris asked for more time, he asked for extension to end of November 2018, on condition that they would return the money with interest,” she said. Ms Lumpa said efforts to get the refund failed as Harris kept giving her stories forcing her to report the matter to police in March this year. The case continues on July 22 July.