THE Zambia Daily Mail has argued that the article complained of by Lusaka City Market manager Mwenya Matafwali that he allegedly stole K12 million revenue did not originate from the newspaper but was based on a memorandum from Lusaka City Council which was issued by Lusaka mayor Miles Sampa.
This in a matter where Matafwali has sued Sampa and the Zambia Daily Mail seeking damages for libel for alleging that he had stolen more than K13 million which was meant to be deposited in the Lusaka City Council account.
Matafwali is seeking an interim injunction to restrain Sampa and the Zambia Daily Mail from further publishing the said words or any similar libel against him.
He is also seeking damages for libel and a public apology by the two defendants in a newspaper, which is widely circulated throughout the country.
In his statement of claim, Matafwali stated that by contract of employment dated July 5, 2017, he was offered employment by the Lusaka City Council as manager for the Lusaka City Council run market for three years.
He stated that by a letter dated April 2, 2020, Sampa told the Lusaka City Council town clerk that City market generated K13,626,242.12 in 2019 but only K60,000 was remitted to the council’s main account at Civic centre.
Matafwali stated that in the letter, Sampa reminded the town clerk, Alex Mwansa, about the need to notify him (Matafwali) that his contract would not be renewed in July this year when it expires and that he must be moved to any other market around Lusaka with immediate effect.
He stated that on page one of the Zambia Daily Mail of April 4, 2020, under the heading “Over 12 million vanishes from the City Market, the newspaper falsely and maliciously printed and published or caused to be printed and published of the plaintiff and of him in a way of his said office and in relation to his consult therein the following words “that K12,000,000. 00 was not deposited into the Lusaka City council account and that Sampa learnt of this with disappointment.”
Matafwali lamented that the said words uttered by Sampa and the Zambia Daily Mail meant and were understood to mean that he stole K12 million and he has failed to account for it and was unfit to retain his occupation or employment and should be removed from office.
However, The Zambia Daily Mail in its defence argued that as a public institution, it’s duty was to inform the public on matters relating to public interest in general, including that of Matafwali.
The newspaper said that it would prove at trial that the words complained of were of fair comment and published under its line of duty, in good faith without any malice in order to inform the public.
“The words published in their natural and ordinary meaning are incapable of being defamatory as the second defendant is a public media institution which has a duty to inform the nation on matters of public interest,” the newspaper stated.
“The article complained of by the plaintiff did not originate from the second plaintiff but was based on a memorandum from Lusaka City Council.”
Zambia Daily Mail explained that upon receiving the memorandum from the Lusaka City Council, it contacted Matafwali to verify the said allegations and Matafwali’s response was part of the newspaper publication.
The newspaper denied each and every allegation in the statement of claim.