Suspended Chongwe Municipal Council Town Clerk Levis Mumba has sued ZNBC, Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) Chairperson Amos Musonda and Chongwe ‘Mayor’ (chairperson) Geoffrey Chumbwe in the Lusaka High Court, demanding for K1.2 million as exemplary damages for libel.
In January this year, the LGSC suspended Mumba from his duties for abuse of authority of office and dishonest conduct.
The Commission had also suspended 12 Chongwe Municipal Council officers and directors for dishonest conduct.
LGSC chairperson Amos Musonda said at a press briefing that the Town Clerk and his directors paid themselves social holiday allowances contrary to the provisions of the Ministry.
But in a statement of claim filed in the Lusaka High court, Friday, Mumba lamented that the said widely-circulated words had seriously injured his reputation and had exposed him to hatred, embarrassment and ridicule.
He sued ZNBC as the first defendant, Musonda as the second defendant and Chumbwe as the third defendant.
“On January 18, the second defendant (Amos Musonda) did conduct a media briefing where he falsely alleged that the ‘plaintiff and other officers of Chongwe Municipal Council paid themselves commutation of leave days in excess of accumulated leave days’. Further, the second defendant alleged that the plaintiff paid himself social holiday allowance contrary to the provisions of the local government. Further, the Daily Mail newspaper edition of January 19, 2018, did carry a story in which the said statements were published,” read the statement of claim.
“On about January 18, 2018, the first defendant (ZNBC) during its prime news during 18:00 hours and 19:00 hours carried a story entitled “Chongwe Municipal Town Clerk suspended” where it stated and alleged that the plaintiff had paid himself holiday allowance, salary advance and leave commutation in breach of the Local Government circular. The first defendant went ahead to publish the said news item, which contained falsehood and untrue statements to the general public without affording the plaintiff an opportunity to give his side of the story in order to give a balanced news item and a correct position.”
Mumba further stated that on January 24, Chumbwe was quoted in the Daily Nation, backing Mumba’s suspension and alleging that the latter was a fraudster.
“On January 24, 2018, the third defendant was quoted in an article published in the Daily Nation newspaper with the heading: ‘Chongwe Mayor backs suspension of council chiefs’. In the same article, he was quoted saying as follows: ‘I totally support the suspensions because abuse of authority and resources borders on money laundering. This must not be tolerated in any council…The suspension of management at Chongwe Municipal Council should serve as a lesson to those who want to use the council to enrich themselves at the expense of service provision. Now, confidence has returned to the council with the suspension of this person who was masquerading as a chief executive when he is a fraudster’,” read the statement of claim further.
He further alleged that the words complained of were meant and understood to mean that the plaintiff was unreliable and unfit to be trusted with public office; he was a common criminal fraudster and an abuser of public authority.
Mumba disclosed that he had written to the defendants demanding for an apology and a retraction of the said article, but the same had not been done.
“As a result of the matters aforesaid, the plaintiff’s personal professional reputation and standing as a senior member of the legal profession in Zambia has been adversely damaged,” read the statement of claim.
He now claims for K1,200,000 as exemplary damages for libel, an injunction to restrain the defendants from publishing the same or similar statements in the future, damages for mental distress, anguish and anxiety, unreserved apology, interest and other reliefs.