UPND lawyers yesterday ‘grilled’ PF deputy spokesperson Frank Bwalya, getting him to admit that idioms were commonly used by politicians.
In this matter, Bwalya dragged UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba to court for threatening violence against the Head of State when he said “I’ll go for Edgar Lungu’s throat”.
When the matter came up for continued trial before magistrate Ntandose Chabala yesterday, Bwalya narrated that on March 2, 2016, Celestin Mukandila called to inform him about what GBM had said.
“I was at home in the evening and at around 18:00 and 21:00 hours, I got a call from Celestin Mukandila, who asked me to monitor news so that I could respond in form of rebuttals. Celestine Mukandila alerted me of a news item which aired on Hot FM. He explained that a news story was being aired on the said radio station which he thought needed a reaction because it borders on threatening violence against the Head of State who is our party President Edgar Lungu. I went straight to Hot FM and demanded to listen to what was aired in order for me to issue a relevant response. I was made to listen to the audio recording and as a journalist myself, I came to conclude the following things, it was a recording of a meeting, political in nature,” Bwalya narrated.
“The speakers and some people mentioned to be in the meeting were some politicians. Those who attended included GBM and Dr Canisius Banda. I also concluded that it was a highly charged meeting. I heard Mr Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba saying he will go for the throat of Edgar Lungu referring to then and still president of the republic of Zambia. When I heard that, I was gripped with fear and anxiety. I still managed to offer a reaction. I requested the recording of the same and I was given a CD. I took it at home and listened to it again and confirmed it was the same one I listened to.”
He said as a law abiding citizen, he reported the matter to police.
“On the 3rd of March, I decided to report the matter to police, Lusaka Central Police. Police interviewed me and made a report and I left them a CD. I decided to report the matter to police because as an adult, I know the job of the police is to maintain law and order in dealing with offenders. I thought an offense was committed and that is why I reported to the police. That is what you do in a civilized community,” Bwalya said before identifying GBM in court.
In cross examination, UPND legal counsel Jack Mwiimbu was first to ‘grill’ Bwalya, asking him if he was once a leader of an opposition political party called Alliance for Better Zambia to which he responded in the affirmative.
When asked if he recalled branding the ruling PF corrupt when he formed ABZ, Bwalya also replied in the affirmative.
“So you joined a corrupt PF?” Mwiimbu asked and Bwalya responded; “I joined PF”.
“You had a chicken with you at one of your rallies. That slaughtering symbol which you made, can you be accused of being a Satanist or threatening violence?” Mwiimbu prodded.
Bwalya said, “Let me explain why I went with a chicken. I slaughtered a chicken prior to the 2011 elections because [Michael] Sata made attempts to win elections but failed due to apathy in his strongholds. Therefore, I sensitized the people to vote in masses. On the material day, I bought a chicken from Luanshya and over 60 eggs. The chicken was laying a lot of eggs but only three hatched. One was eaten by a dog, one fell into the fire. So I asked the audience that ‘what should I do with the chicken?’ and they told me ‘kill it and eat it’.”
Mwiimbu insisted; “can they accuse you of being violent or being a Satanist through your actions?”
Bwalya responded; “it depends on their motive. It will depend on someone’s motive on why they would accuse me of being violent or being a Satanist.”
Mwiimbu then brought in Bwalya’s case when he was alleged to have defamed Sata for referring to him as a Chuumbu Mushololwa.
Asked if it literally meant Sata was a sweet potato, Bwalya said,
“He couldn’t have become president.”
But when asked for a yes or no response, Bwalya said no.
Bwalya further explained that Chuumbu Munsholowa was a Bemba idiom which could be used in different contexts and told the court that he was acquitted in the same case.
Asked if he could be referred to as Father Frank Bwalya, he said he was comfortable being called Frank Bwalya.
When asked if he was still a priest, Bwalya refused to answer the question until the court told him to respond and he reluctantly said, “I am still a priest.”
Mwiimbu asked Bwalya if he was aware that President Lungu loved to use idioms in his speech.
“I have heard him use statements like ‘I will fall on them like a ton of bricks’,” Mwiimbu said.
But Bwalya claimed he had never heard Lungu say such words.
“I have never heard him use such idioms but I have heard him say ‘ninenankoko ufukatila bonse (I am a chicken which embraces everyone),” Bwalya claimed.
Asked if President Lungu was a chicken, Bwalya said, “No, he is not.”
Mwiimbu asked Bwalya if he had ever heard of a saying “I’ll go for your throat” to which he replied in the affirmative.
“Was there an attempt by GBM to go for Lungu’s throat?” Mwiimbu asked.
Bwalya responded, “He has never done that. We prevented that when we reported the matter to the police.”
“Are you aware that GBM and Lungu hugged in a church?” Mwiimbu asked.
Bwalya responded; “Even Jesus hugged Judas Iscariot, the man who sold him”, sending the courtroom into pangs of laughter. “I don’t remember that incident. GBM hugged me this morning and it was a good feeling.”
Asked if he attended the meeting where GBM allegedly made those remarks, Bwalya said he just heard about it from a reporter.
Martha Mushipe then took over from Mwiimbu, asking Bwalya whether he issued a reaction to GBM’s statement and he replied in the affirmative.
“So this statement, going for the throat, is it an offense?” Mushipe asked.
“It depends on the context. If I say whilst smiling that ‘Martha, I will go for your throat’, it cannot be an offense. But if I say ‘Martha! I will go for your throat!’ (Demonstrates aggression as people laugh)”
Mweemba took over the cross examination and asked Bwalya if he witnessed any meeting where GBM was.
“No, I didn’t witness any meeting. I can’t know how many people attended,” Bwalya said.
Asked if he was aware that for the offense to take place, there must be three or more people, Bwalya replied in the negative.
“Do we have any independent witness apart from you and Mukandila who testified that GBM said this?” Mweemba asked.
“No, only me and Mukandila are the only ones who have testified so far,” Bwalya said.
“Are Catholic fathers allowed to have children?” Mweemba asked.
“It comes as a consequence of observing celibacy,” Bwalya said.
Asked where he got the CD containing the recording, Bwalya said it was given to him by a reporter.
“Is GBM entitled to the fundamental human rights like freedom of expression?” Mweemba asked.
“Yes, he has the right to freedom of expression,” Bwalya said.
“Do you have a recording which states that he will go for the throat of the President or His Excellency?” Mweemba asked.
“No, I only have a recording where he is saying ‘I will go for Edgar Lungu’s throat’,” Bwalya said.
“You can feel free to sit, you have been standing for some time,” Mweemba told Bwalya but he declined saying, “No, I am okay.”
Mweemba then jokingly offered Bwalya some water but he responded, “No, I am okay, if you want some water yourself you can take some,” as people in the courtroom laughed.
Mweemba then offered to have a drink with Bwalya after the court session to which the later jokingly responded, “Yes, some Gin and Tonic could do after this.”
Asked if he came across a permit which allowed GBM to hold an assembly on the material day, Bwalya said he had not seen any permit.
“If there was no permit, they could have been arrested in line with the Public Order Act not so?” Keith asked.
“I don’t have video footage that GBM held an assembly, I heard it from a reporter,” said Bwalya.
Gilbert Phiri then took over from Mweemba and asked Bwalya if there was any proof that President Lungu expressed apprehension that his throat could be plunged.
“No,” said Bwalya before Phiri continued, “In fact, he has got some throat problems not so?” (laughter in court)
Bwalya smiled widely and responded, “I don’t know. I don’t even know whether the President heard it.”
Last to cross examine Bwalya was Christopher Mundia who asked, “Edgar Lungu has used several idioms like ‘HH will see if he doesn’t accept the results, ‘I carry a big stick’, do you remember this?”
“No, I don’t remember,” Bwalya said.
“You claim to be a law abiding citizen who takes it upon himself to report law breakers. Did you report Jean Kapata and Bowman Lusambo for beating Kambwili at parliament?” Mundia asked.
“No, I didn’t report,” Bwalya said.
“HH was called a Satanist by Bishop Edward Chomba, did you investigate that issue and report it?” Mundia asked.
“No, I didn’t investigate or report it,” Bwalya said.
After several examples of President Lungu’s idioms, Mundia closed Bwalya’s cross examination.
Hot FM reporter Logic Lukwanda, who was the state’s key witness as he recorded the statement, said he could not recall the actual words which GBM said.
“I cannot remember the actual words unless I see the statement or listen to the recording,” said Lukwanda.