UPND president Hakainde Hichilema is demanding K10.3 million from Economic and Equity Party leader Chilufya Tayali for defamation of character for alleging that he corruptly benefitted from the privatisation exercise by stealing public assets and stripped citizens of their benefits.
Hichilema is also demanding a retraction of the defamatory and contemptuous words from Tayali and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.
Tayali, at a press briefing on November 15, 2020, accused Hichilema of stealing, among other assets, a house in Avondale belonging to ZIMCO and depriving a Mr Jere of the property as the sitting tenant and former employee of the company.
Hichilema was a transactional advisor to the government during the privatisation process of the 1990s.
According to a demand letter addressed to Tayali by Hichilema’s lawyers Messrs M Associates, Lukona Chambers, Muleza Mwiimbu and Co, Milner & Paul Legal Practitioners, Keith Mweemba Advocates, Lusenga Mulongoti Advocates and C L Mundia and Company, Tayali has been given a seven-day ultimatum in which to render an apology and pay the demanded money, failure to which he will be taken to court.
Tayali, during the press briefing at his office in Villa Elizabetha, uttered and caused to be published false and malicious words about Hichilema when he claimed that he had evidence suggesting that Hichilema should be behind bars instead of aspiring for the presidency, because he corruptly benefited from privatisation.
“My investigation has revealed that Mr Hichilema acquired several properties from privatisation, depriving citizens opportunities to be empowered through job creation, accrued benefits, houses and other properties,” Tayali alleged. “One example is a house on Plot No. 77/A/609 on Poplar Avenue in Chelstone…a latest print out from Ministry of Lands shows very suspicious entries on the property mentioned above and I am taking this matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate the matter on how Mr Hichilema owned this house from ZIMCO, depriving Mr M Jere, a siting tenant and former worker of ZIMCO. In my opinion this is a clear case of corruption.”
Hichilema’s lawyers said the press briefing was preceded by a live Facebook posting where Tayali invited members of the press and was well attended and covered by both the electronic and print media.
The lawyers said ZNBC gave it prominence and unfairly covered it live across the lengths and breaths of the country and through the internet, without giving Hichilema an opportunity to respond to the claims.
They said the defamatory words attributed to Tayali meant, and were understood to mean, that Hichilema was corrupt and not fit to be elected as Zambia’s president.
They said the defamatory words were calculated by Tayali to bring Hichilema into contempt in the estimation of the citizenry that perceived him to be the only hope in mitigating the social, political and economic challenges that the country was facing.
“Your aim was to cause the electorate to shun him (Hichilema) or refuse to vote for him in the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled for August 12, 2021 based on your malicious falsehoods,” read the letter of demand. “Our client has instructed that, at the said press briefing – you proceeded to contemptuously run your mouth with regards to Farm 1924, Kalomo in a manner that is prejudicial to our client’s right to a fair trial, knowing very well that the property in issue is subjudice. It is a well-known fact that the media fraternity in Zambia have contemporaneously made public the said legal proceedings in the matter of Pheluna Hatembo v Hakainde Hichilema (our client): 2020/HP/128 but you have usurped the powers of the Court to make pronouncements on a matter that is before the High Court of Zambia. The aforesaid utterances by yourself are in and of themselves contemptuous of ongoing legal proceedings.”
Hichilema’s lawyers contended that Tayili’s rantings relating to the house belonging to ZIMCO were false, resulting in Hichilema suffering pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages for the severe harm caused to his reputation that he has built over the years in his political, business and corporate circles, including the erosion of the trust he has earned from the electorate.
“It is on the premise of the foregoing that our client has instructed us to demand, and we so demand that you retract the above mentioned utterances and issue an unequivocal and acceptable apology to be published in the same manner that you published the words complained about by return of post. This aspect of the demand also includes a demand for an apology from the ZNBC board for the unfair airing of defamatory material complained about without following the media ethics of fair coverage,” the letter read further. “Our client also demands that you atone for the pecuniary damage you have caused him in the amount of K10 000,000.00 and costs in the amount of K350,000.00 within seven days from the date of this letter.”
Hichilema has since threatened to commence a law suit and committal proceedings against Tayali in the High Court if the latter fails to publicly apologise.
He said Tayali would be rendered bankrupt if he failed to settle the judgment debt and costs to be awarded by the Court and that the semblance of his political career would be ruined.