UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has sued Economic and Equity Party leader Chilufya Tayali for defamation in the Lusaka High Court demanding K100 million as damages for libel for alleging that he corruptly benefitted from the privatisation exercise by stealing public assets and stripped citizens of their benefits.
Hichilema wants an interim and permanent injunction restraining Tayali, whether by himself, servants or agents from further publishing or causing to be published or broadcast the defamatory words or anything similar against him.
Tayali during a press briefing on November 15, 2020 accused Hichilema, as a transactional advisor to the MMD government during the privatisation process, of stealing among other assets, a house in Chelstone belonging to ZIMCO and depriving a Mr Jere the said property as sitting tenant and former employee of the said company.
Tayali said that Hichilema should not be aspiring for the presidency but should be in jail.
He claimed he had gathered evidence from people whom Hichilema allegedly kicked out of employment when he privatised the companies they used to work for without giving them their benefits.
“There is one house plot no. 77/A/609 on Polar Avenue in Chelstone…it was offered to Mr M. Jere and he actually paid for it through SP Mulenga, who were the lawyers. Now what happened thereafter mysteriously that house was bought by Mr Hakainde Hichilema for K31,000 …how did Mr Hakainde Hichilema buy this house he never worked for ZIMCO? I found out that Mr Norman Mbazima, who was the core liquidator of ZIMCO offered the house to Mr Hakainde Hichilema, depriving a former worker of ZIMCO. Mr Mbazima from there ended up being the deputy chairman of Anglo American and it is believed that Anglo American is one of the biggest sponsors of Mr Hichilema and the UPND,” Tayali alleged.
He further alleged that Hichilema who was a managing partner for Grant Thornton failed to declare interest when he allegedly acquired Farm no.1924 in Kalomo, Southern Province, which was mortgaged to Lima Bank limited, when Grant Thornton liquidated it.
Tayali claimed that Hichilema was not clean, was a criminal and he did not want to contest the 2021 elections with criminals.
But Hichilema in his statement of claim contended that the defamatory words in their natural and ordinary meaning were pregnant with innuendo under the guise of a report to the law enforcement officers.
He stated that the words meant or were calculated to mean that he (Hichilema) was a criminal, who deserves to be in jail, a corrupt person of questionable integrity and character and was guilty of offences relating to the affairs of ZIMCO, the liquidation of Lima Bank by selling its assets when in fact not.
Hichilema said reports to the law enforcing agencies were made in confidence and secretly to protect the presumption of innocence and reputation of the suspect and to avoid jeopardising investigations but Tayali made noise and sensationalised his allegations against him by going to the media to secure a verdict of guilty from the court of public opinion and subjecting him to ridicule, scandal and odium.
He said Tayali’s words were false and published maliciously because he has never been convicted of any criminal offence warranting him to be in jail or to be prevented from vying for public office as President of Zambia.
Hichilema said he has never taken pecuniary advantage from the affairs at ZIMCO, including but not limited to him buying a house no. 609/A/77 Poplar Road, Chelstone as the property was legally sold to him 20 years ago.
He denied acting as a receiver, manger or liquidator of Lima Bank (in liquidation) as alleged by Tayali neither did he acquire Farm no.1924 Kalomo through the said Bank but he (Hichilema) bought the same from the heirs and assigns of the estate of the late Samson Siatembo and the matter was currently before court.
Hichilema said particulars of malice were that he was a highly popular presidential candidate and Tayali was a struggling leader of an insignificant political party that attempts to gain popularity by disparaging him.
He stated that Tayali’s allegations that he was speaking from an informed position with credible evidence was calculated to lend credence to the defamatory words and create an impression in the minds of the public that they were true when in fact not.
Hichilema contended that his reputation had been seriously damaged and he had suffered hatred, ridicule, contempt, distress and embarrassment as his reputation has been lowered in the estimation of right thinking members of the Zambian and global community given his international repute as an astute businessman and leader of the largest opposition political party aspiring for public office.
” As a consequence of the defendant’s action, the plaintiff has been compelled to engage the services of legal consultants and other consultants and the consequent pecuniary damage, costs and expenses which are projected to accumulate to K100,000,000 as the process of litigation and damage control continues in the period leading up to the presidential election scheduled for August 12, 2021,” Hichilema said.
Hichilema stated that he asked Tayali to formally retract the said words and render an apology but the latter on November 17, 2020 held a press briefing and refused to retract and apologise for the disparaging words and justified his actions claiming he had reported the matter to law enforcement offices.
The UPND leader is now claiming for damages for libel, aggravated and exemplary damages, an order directing Tayali to retract the defamatory words.
Hichilema also wants reimbursement of sums he has spent in mitigating the effect of Tayali’s conduct towards him and arising from the publication of the defamatory words by Tayali.