New Congress Party president Peter Chanda has admitted before court that people have the right to question President Edgar Lungu’s association with those accused of drug trafficking.
This was during cross examination with defence lawyer Keith Mweemba.
In this matter, NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili is charged with defamation of the President following a complaint filed in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court by Chanda.
It is alleged that between September 1 and 12, 2019, in Lusaka, Kambwili, with intent to bring the name of the President into hatred, ridicule and contempt, published defamatory matter affecting President Lungu by word of mouth to which he said; “What business do you do with Valden Findlay? Because we see, when you go abroad, when coming out of the plane, the next person to come out is Valden Findlay. Now, the allegations by the people of Zambia and world over are that may be the Presidential trips and the Presidential plane is now being used to courier drugs…”
The matter is being privately prosecuted by lawyers Jonas Zimba, who is the lead prosecutor, and Emmanuel Mwansa from EBM Chambers.
Chanda had previously testified that when Kambwili questioned President Lungu’s association with Findlay, he implied that the Head of State was a criminal and deals in drugs.
However, when the matter came up for cross examination before magistrate Felix Kaoma, Monday, Kambwili’s lawyer Mweemba asked Chanda, who said he’s a pastor, on what the Bible says about settling matters out of court before taking legal action against one’s brother.
In response, Chanda said, “We are not dealing with the Bible here, we are dealing with the law”.
When Mweemba asked him further whether he approached Kambwili before going to court, the complainant denied doing so, charging that Kambwili was unapproachable.
He, however, admitted that one of the functions of an opposition party was to provide checks and balances to the ruling party.
And when Mweemba questioned whether providing checks and balances meant that Chanda was supposed to be a surrogate to the ruling party, the latter said that was not correct.
He also denied that his role as president of his party had been to fight his fellow opposition members and support the ruling party.
At this point, Mweemba reminded Chanda that he was one of the chief architects who filed a process in the Constitutional Court supporting the eligibility of President Lungu to contest in 2021.
Mweemba further said he wanted to demonstrate that Chanda was a vexatious complainant who went to court with an interest to serve.
Chanda also denied ever being dragged to Central police for failing to pay rentals.
Later, the witness admitted that as a leader of the opposition, Kambwili had an obligation to provide checks and balances to the ruling party and that where he was not clear about certain things, he had the right to ask questions and receive answers.
Chanda also admitted that it was not wrong to question President Lungu on what business he had with Findlay.
He, however, said he is not aware that Findlay was detained by first president Kenneth Kaunda on allegations of drug trafficking.
But when Mweemba asked Chanda if he had gone to court without searching whether or not there were drug trafficking allegations against Findlay, the complainant said, “I am not here to talk about Findlay, my focus is on defamation of the President.”
After being pressed further, Chanda said he conducted his own research and found that Findlay was never convicted but was detained [by Dr Kaunda].
Chanda further admitted that people had the right to question President Lungu’s association with people who were accused of drug trafficking.
He further admitted that people had a duty to protect the integrity and image of the President.
Earlier, magistrate Kaoma accepted Mweemba’s apology for walking out of court at the last session before he was granted permission.
Mweemba told the court when rendering his apology that there was a breakdown in communication on that day which was “deeply regretted”.
“Before we begin our cross examination, I just wish to render an unreserved apology to this court for the break down in communication that occurred on on January 29. It has never been our intention in our practice of law to disrespect or argue with the court in anyway and that the break down in communication is deeply regretted and I apologise to the court. We shall always respect the courts,” he said.
Magistrate Kaoma accepted Mweemba’s apology and allowed him to proceed in the matter as lead counsel.
On January 29, 2020, magistrate Kaoma asked Kambwili to find another lawyer to represent him in the matter after Mweemba excused himself and walked out of the courtroom to adjourn a matter in another court before he could be permitted by the magistrate.