THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has found NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili with a case to answer in a matter he is facing a charge of defamation of the President.
Magistrate Felix Kaoma said there is overwhelming evidence warranting him to place Kambwili on his defense.
This is in a matter where PF surrogate Peter Chanda has taken Kambwili to court for questioning President Edgar Lungu’s association with Lusaka businessman Valden Findlay whom he accused of being a drug dealer.
Allegations in this matter are that between September 1, 2019 and September 12, 2019, Kambwili with intent to bring the name of the President into hatred, ridicule and contempt, published 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.”
“There is no way a President worth his salt can be moving and associating with a person who was locked up for drugs, a person who was mentioned in America by a well-known world drug dealer
in the name of Goswami and when I say this, is without… you know, it’s with not impunity but I am tying to protect you, President Edgar Lungu. There is no way, my brother, wingakwata ichibusa no muntu wamusango ifi, (you cannot have friendship with such a person) and I am appealing to the Americans, please come and pick up this man….”
When the matter came up for continued trial, Kamima Nyirenda, a Zambia Air Force pilot, said that he came to know about the matter through a news article that was published in the Zambia Daily Mail in September 2019.
“I was surprised to read that the presidential jet was associated to carrying huge sums of money and drugs and that it had been to Israel,” Nyirenda said.
Nyirenda, who refuted assertions by Kambwili that President Lungu is always accompanied by Findlay on Presidential trips, said the allegations were purely meant to bring the name of the President whom he flies into disrepute.
He said there was no truth in Kambwili’s allegations as Findlay had never been on board whenever President Lungu went on international trips.
Nyirenda said the gulfstream 650 (AF 001) has never been flown to Israel and the said facts were well documented in the flight authorisation book.
He said security personnel from State House have the responsibility to ensure that no drugs or huge sums of money were couriered on the plane.
“As the aircraft captain, I always come out first followed by the rest of my crew and line up and the chief cabin attendant invites the President to alight from the aircraft and his special assistant follows behind him. The allegations that Mr Findlay is the second to come out is untrue as such has never happened,” Nyirenda explained.
He said Findlay only accompanied the President on a commercial flight to Ndola on April 2, 2020 and at no point has he flown Findlay on International trips.
In cross-examination by Kambwili’s lawyers Keith Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri, Nyirenda confirmed that he was not competent to talk about the Israeli trip in 2017 as he did not fly President Lungu to Israel.
He said Kambwili did not assert that the gulfstream was used to courier drugs by Findlay.
Nyirenda told the court that he was upset when Kambwili alleged that the gulfstream could be used to courier drugs.
He said according to his interpretation, Kambwili implicated the Head of State when he alleged that the presidential jet was used to carry colossal sums of money and drugs as he was responsible for what was carried on the plane.
Nyirenda said using the word “the” was the same as referring to the gulfstream.
When asked if the word “the” cannot definitely mean the gulfstream, the witness denied.
Nyirenda was asked if he was the only one that flies the President and he responded in the negative.
He confirmed that President Lungu has also been flown by foreign pilots who were not employees of the Zambia Air Force.
He said the flight authorisation book clearly shows that foreigners flew the Presidential plane sometimes.
Nyirenda conceded that the matter was not only of public interest but also boarders on national security as foreigners were not supposed to fly the Presidential plane.
When asked by Mweemba if he was aware that the Head of State on his way from India stopped by in Kenya to pick up his associate, Findlay, the witness denied.
Nyirenda further disclosed that he had been to Kenya twice.
When asked by Phiri if Kambwili said that he had no facts but mere allegations, the witness confirmed.
He affirmed that Findlay was not employed in the civil service and that he was the only person who was mentioned in relation to drugs dealing.
Nyirenda added that the particulars of offence do not show that Kambwili accused the President of carrying drugs and money on his plane.
At this point, magistrate Kaoma ruled that considering that the prosecution had closed its case, there was no need for both parties to file their submissions but he would deliver his ruling on case to answer as he was satisfied that a case had been made against Kambwili.
“I have carefully followed the evidence in examination in chief and cross-examination since trial commenced and it is my considered view that there is overwhelming evidence establishing a prima facie case against the accused to warrant me to place him on his defense,” said magistrate Kaoma. “I will not analyse the evidence in the submissions. It is my considered view that the prosecutions has established a case against the accused I hereby find him with a case to answer for defamation of the President and place him on defence.”
Kambwili will have to open his defense on February 15, 2021.