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Acting CJ directs judge to allow journalist report Tasilia petition

High Court judge Kazimbe Chenda has u-turned on his decisionnto ban journalists to hear evidence in a matter where losing UPND candidate for Chawama Constituency Potipher Tembo has petitioned the election of former president Edgar Lungu’s daughter Tasila.

Judge Chenda, who had barred journalists from covering the proceedings, today suddenly instructed his marshal to call the media to cover the matter when Tasila took the stand to defend herself.

“The judge said you are free to come and cover the case. He got fresh instructions from the acting chief justice on the COVID-19 guidelines and he was told journalists are allowed to cover the matter,” said the court marshal.

Some journalists rejected the judge’s proposal to hear evidence at the time Tasila was testifying to avoid being biased.

In his petition, Tembo stated that elections in Chawama Constituency were characterised by undue influence which resulted from threats and violence.

He said there were rampant physical attacks, sexual assault on women and some members of the UPND were raped by PF cadres who were led by Innocent Kalimanshi, a leader of a rebellious group known as ‘Americans’.

The petitioner said in June this year, Kalimanshi and his follower Nathan Phiri attacked UPND officers in John Howard and fired gunshots in the air in order to scare people and stole property in several households.

Tembo alleged that Tasila on August 12, which was poll day, distributed her party regalia and money to voters and polling staff at Mtendere E polling station.

He contended that the illegalities, non-compliance with the electoral code of conduct and violence before nomination, during the campaign period prevented majority voters from voting for their preferred candidate.

But in her defence, Tasila said she never directed any of her agents, including Kalimanshi and his followers, to attack Tembo or his sympathisers.

She claimed that the election was generally peaceful as evidenced by the high number of people who turned up to vote freely for their preferred candidate.

Tasila said she was only aware of one shooting incident which was reported to have happened at JICA polling station and learnt of the same when touring various polling stations to assess the electoral process whilst in the company of her husband Patrick Mwansa, who was her campaign manager.

“There was a shooting incident at JICA station and we were told that we couldn’t continue with our tour. Apart from the shorting incident at JICA polling station, the polls were generally peaceful and myself and my agents adhered to the electoral code of conduct,” Tasila claimed.

“On the part of the public, there was no fear as they came out in large numbers to vote and I was declared winner of the election. The fact that the people of Chawama turned out in numbers and gave me more than 35,000 votes against the over 20,000 which the petitioner got shows that I was duly elected as MP.”

She also denied breaching the electoral code of conduct by distributing mealie-meal and money to voters.

Tasila urged the court not to grant Tembo the reliefs he was seeking as he was not entitled, claiming the election was fair.

In cross-examination by Tembo’s lawyers Gilbert Phiri and Keith Mweemba, Tasila was asked to mention any names of over her 400 agents but she failed to mention a single name.

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