Kambwili refuses to take plea to unclear defamation charge

NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili yesterday refused to take plea in a matter where he has been taken to court by New Congress party leader Peter Chanda for defamation of the President owing to the defectiveness of the charge sheet.

This is in relation to a complaint filed by Chanda against Kambwili in the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for questioning President Edgar Lungu’s association with Lusaka businessman Harry Valden Findlay, whom he accused of being a drug lord.

Meanwhile, Lusaka magistrate Felix Kaoma ordered Chanda to file a new charge sheet as Kambwili did not understand the contents of the charge leveled against him.

Allegations in this matter are that on September 9, 2019, Kambwili, with intent to bring the name of the President into ridicule and contempt, published a defamatory matter affecting the President by word of mouth to which he was quoted saying “what business do you have with Findlay because we see when you go abroad, when coming out of the plane, the next person to come out is Findlay? Now allegations by the people of Zambia and world over are that maybe the Presidential trips and plane is now being used to courier drugs”.

According to an affidavit in support of the complaint sworn by Chanda, the words uttered by Kambwili were defamatory and intended to bring the name of the President into hatred, ridicule and contempt.

“I verily believe that by reason thereof an offence has been committed by the accused justifying the institution of proceedings by way of a complaint before this honourable court,” Chanda said.

“I have a reasonable and probable cause that an offence has been committed by the accused necessitating a complaint and that he has no justification to utter by word of mouth defamatory matter to the nation and the world at large against his Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the Republican President of Zambia”.

When the matter came up for plea before magistrate Kaoma, Kambwili’s lawyer Keith Mweemba asked the court for an adjournment in order to study the content of the complaint.

However, lawyer Jonas Zimba, who is the private prosecutor in the matter, objected to the adjournment, insisting that Kambwili takes plea because the law allowed him to change plea at any given time.

Zimba added that Kambwili and his lawyers had enough time to look at the complaint.

In his ruling, magistrate Kaoma refused to adjourn the matter and ordered that Kambwili takes plea.

The court further read the charge to Kambwili and when asked if he understood it, the NDC leader denied, prompting magistrate Kaoma to stand down the matter for thirty minutes.

When the matter resumed, Kambwili’s lawyers, Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri indicated that the charge was supposed to be clear and drafted in a language that Kambwili understands.

And Phiri added that the instructions from Kambwili were that he did not understand the charge, neither did they, as his advocates, understand the language and what was being communicated.

Phiri said that the prosecution needed to align the charges with the law.

Zimba later made an application to amend the indictment so that it was crystal clear.

In his ruling, magistrate Kaoma allowed the amendment of the indictment and directed that, Chanda, the complainant, files a new indictment.

The complaint by Chanda adds up to the five cases that Kambwili is already facing before the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court.

The matter comes up on November 25, 2019, for plea.

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