PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu’s childhood friend has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that he grew up with the Head of State as neighbours and he hasn’t forgotten him to this day.

Dama Banda, 62, a former head teacher of Kitwe, was testifying in a matter in which New Labour Party leader Fresher Siwale is charged with defamation of the President.

Siwale is alleged to have on April 22, 2018, with intent to bring the name of President Edgar Lungu into ridicule, published defamatory matter by word of mouth to which he said: “The President of the Republic of Zambia is not the actual Edgar Chagwa Lungu, but Jonathan Mutawale, he must be arrested for having three National Registration Cards, he is an identity thief!”

But when the matter came up for continued trial before Principle Resident Magistrate Alice Walusiku, Thursday, Banda testified that he grew up with President Lungu and walked with him to school.

The witness added that he used to go with President Lungu to a place called “Kwanakayombo” in Kitwe to cultivate maize and they would also play games together, such as football.

Banda told the Court that on April 20, 2018, he came to Lusaka to visit his young sister in Kaunda Square Stage One.

He said on Sunday, April 22, 2018, he watched a programme on Muvi TV called The Assignment, which featured Siwale.

The witness testified that Siwale said the man in State House was not the actual Edgar Lungu and that he was Jonathan Mutawale.

“That was not true! Edgar Lungu in State House is not an identity fraud. It occurred to me that Siwale did not in fact know Edgar Lungu. President Lungu is the person I grew up together with as neighbours, and I cannot forget him up to this day. We used to go in the bush together to hunt [for] birds,” Banda recalled.

“During childhood, we used to call the President as Chagwa, we went to Mukuba Secondary together in 1973 when I was in form one. In secondary school, he was called Edgar Lungu. He was ahead of me by one year.”

The witness further said President Lungu had even adopted a classroom block at Mukuba Secondary School that was named after him and that he donated a big bus to the school.

Banda further testified that he lived with his family in a rented house owned by Kitwe City Council and that the house in which President Lungu and his family lived was rented by Rhodesian Railways where his father worked.

He said after watching the programme on Muvi TV, he felt extremely bad that an elderly person could tell lies about a person he did not know.

“As a childhood friend to President Lungu, I thought I should report the matter to police,” Banda said.

The matter comes up on April 23, this year, for cross-examination.