A Lusaka resident, Edward Sichali, has refused to withdraw a matter in which Chilufya Tayali has been slapped with seven counts of contempt of court and publishing defamatory statements against him, despite the accused’s plea to have the matter settled outside court.

And Lusaka Magistrate Silvia Munyinya has granted Tayali one week to seek legal representation.

In this matter, Tayali, the Economic and Equity Party (EEP) leader, is facing seven counts contempt of court and publishing defamatory matter.

He had, however, pleaded not guilty.

Particulars in this matter are that on October 12, 2018, while judicial proceedings in a matter where Tayali is charged with criminal defamation were pending before court, Tayali allegedly uttered sentiments that were prejudicial, saying: “HH (Hakainde Hichilema) wants to infiltrate our minds to hate our government and rise against it. This is what he wants to do, and I will not stop talking about this…”

In the second count, Tayali is accused of publishing a defamatory matter against Sichali.

It is alleged that on October 13, last year, Tayali published defamatory matter on various media platforms, including Facebook stating that: “I know even the people that got money to sponsor, to organise the UNZA riot, Edward [Sichali] naumfwa (have you heard)?”.

Tayali is further accused of alleging that Sichali and Hichilema were involved in organising riots at UNZA.

The complainant, Sichali, is being represented by Dr Henry Mbushi and Mulambo Haimbe.

And when the matter came up for commencement of trial, Monday, Haimbe informed the court that their intention was to call three witnesses during trial and two of the witnesses were ready to testify.

However, Tayali said he was not ready to proceed with trial and asked the court for an adjournment so that he could engage a lawyer.

He informed the court that he had been trying to engage the complainant so that the matter could be resolved ex curia (outside court).

“From December, I was out of the country, but I kept engaging the lawyers via text and I was hopeful that we would reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, last night I was told that they will continue with the matter, hence I ask for time to seek legal representation. Hopefully, before then, we can try to reach a conclusion to settle the matter outside court,” Tayali said.

In response, the complainant’s lawyer, Haimbe, confirmed that Tayali engaged them in order to seek possible withdrawal of the matter, but added that at no point did they give him an indication that they would withdraw it.

“As much as the accused did engage with us, seeking a possible withdrawal of the matter, at no point did we give him an indication that the matter will be drawn,” Haimbe said.

He added that Sichali actually wanted to see the matter up to its conclusion.

He observed that the accused had enough time to engage a lawyer from the time he took plea.

“The record will show that after plea was taken, the matter was scheduled for commencement of trial to December 17, 2018, and the matter was scheduled to start today (Monday). The accused has had ample time to engage a lawyer,” Haimbe said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mbushi added that Tayali’s reason that he was out of the country for his Christmas was not their concern.

“He has no good reason why the court should grant him the application. We humbly ask the court not to entertain the application,” Dr Mbushi submitted.

However, Tayali prayed that he be accorded an opportunity to engage a lawyer.

And in her ruling, Magistrate Munyinya gave Tayali the benefit of doubt and granted him time to engage a lawyer.

“It’s not in dispute that from the time this matter was adjourned, the accused had ample time to engage a lawyer. As he had stated, he has been exploring ways to have the matter settled outside of court. I will give him a benefit of doubt for today and grant him time to seek legal representation,” ruled Magistrate Munyinya.

The matter has been adjourned to January 14, 2019, for commencement of trial.