CHIEF Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya has testified that the alleged utterances by Lusaka photographer, Cornelius Chella Tukuta, in a video on Facebook that she is a pimp, who hooks up girls with high-profile people, were extremely injurious on her.
Siliya told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that she may be single, divorced or have had failed relationships, but that does not make her a high-level prostitute, neither does it mean she sells girls to high-profile men.
This is in a matter in which Tukuta, 34, is charged with one count of libel.
It is alleged that Tukuta on May 26, 2020 in Lusaka, published defamatory matter affecting Dora Siliya in the form of a video on Facebook that: “This Dora Siliya is hooking up girls, selling girls to the high-profile people, so that men can be sleeping [with them], she is actually the highest of the highest professional prostitute. If Dora Siliya is refusing these allegations that she does not connect girls to high-profile people for sex, let her come.”
And when the matter came up for commencement of trial before Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale, Tuesday, Tukuta took fresh plea after the State substituted the indictment.
Initially, the indictment had two charges of libel, however, one charge had been removed on the substituted charge sheet.
After the accused took fresh plea, Siliya, who is also Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, was called to the stand as the first prosecution witness.
Siliya, 49, testified that on May 25, 2020 on African Freedom Day, she received a call from a lady called Natasha Vandermaas, who asked her if she had seen what had been posted on the internet by a person called Chella Tukuta.
She said she responded by asking the said Natasha who Chella Tukuta was and was informed that he was a photographer.
Siliya said she told Natasha that she did not know who Chella was and had not seen what he had posted.
She said Natasha then sent screenshots of Chella’s Facebook page to her WhatsApp containing what he had written about the Northern Province Permanent Secretary.
Siliya further testified that the next day, she got a call in the morning from Infrastructure and Housing Development Minister Vincent Mwale, who also asked her if she had seen what Chella had posted.
“Once again, I said I had not seen it, except through Natasha. Honourable Mwale then told me that Mr Tukuta had posted that he was coming for myself and Honourable Mwale,” she narrated.
Siliya said on June 1, 2020, she got a call from Kaizer Zulu, President Edgar Lungu’s former special assistant for political affairs, who also asked her if she had seen what Chella had posted, but she told him that she had only seen what Natasha had sent to her as well as what had told her.
She said Zulu proceeded to tell her that Chella had gone too far because he was calling her a pimp, adding that at that time, she decided to see what the posting was about.
Siliya said her son, whom she was quarantined with during that time, showed her the said video where Chella accused her of being a pimp.
“I had been in quarantine during that time with COVID-19 with my son and so I asked him if I could see this posting of Mr Tukuta, which was calling me a pimp. My son proceeded to show me a video on his phone that Mr Tukuta could have posted on his Facebook page after downloading it,” she said.
“In the video, I saw the face of Mr Tukuta in a bluish, dark t-shirt talking about a number of things. What caught my interest was on the 14th minute where he said to the effect that: ‘this Dora Siliya, who is hooking up young girls to high-profile men, selling them to sleep with high-profile people. She is the highest of the highest of the professional prostitutes’.”
She testified that she was extremely incensed and called her Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga, to find out if he had also seen the videos of which he confirmed that he had.
Siliya said she then decided to make a formal complaint to the police.
She testified that she was extremely disturbed that someone could be referring to her as a person who sells girls to high-profile men, which she believed was a crime.
“I felt angry, embarrassed because apart from my own person, a person who has been a public servant for so many years, I felt that this injury was about me in person, but also government since I work for the government and also the people of Zambia who elected that government that I work for. I also felt that it was damaging to me and to my reputation and my family,” she said.
“A lot of people called me and wondered what was going on because I have a lot of professional friends, colleagues in government and outside government. I got calls, even from people from my church, wondering what was going on. I recall even American Chargé d’Affaires to Zambia David Young sent me a WhatsApp message stating that his officers had just shown him the video and he was extremely shocked at what Mr Tukuta was saying about me, which he described as misogynistic and disgraceful.”
She added that she felt that Chella’s utterances in the video were extremely injurious on her person.
Siliya said in the past, she had paid a blind eye to some of the things said to politicians, but added that this was different because she was being accused of a crime of selling human beings, especially that she mentored a lot of young girls.
“It is a crime to sell human beings and to believe that my colleagues would be calling to find out what this was about, I felt that there was no other action to take except to clear my reputation that I do not sell human beings and do not engage in sexual activities for cash! I’m a human being and all I have done is the best I can. Yes, I may be single, divorced, have failed relationships, but that does not make me a high-level prostitute and does not mean that I sell girls to high-profile men,” she stressed.
In cross-examination, Chella’s lawyer Mulambo Haimbe asked Siliya whether she recalled that this was not the first time she was being called a prostitute, and in response the witness said no.
Haimbe then reminded Siliya that in 2017, the Mast newspaper carried a story where Siliya was allegedly rushed to Fairview Hospital for medical attention after being brutally beaten by her lover Mark Ode Mubalama following a dispute, after Mubalama allegedly accused her of seeing other men.
In response, Siliya said she did not read that particular article, but added that: “I do know that everybody knows that I had a relationship with Mark.”
Further asked whether it was not true that there was a time when her dressing in Parliament was brought to question, as she was wearing short skirts, Siliya said she was not aware.