LUSAKA Magistrate Felix Kaoma has found NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili with a case to answer in a case in which he is accused of defaming President Edgar Lungu in relation to a statement in which he questioned the Head of State’s association with businessman Harry Valden Findlay.
Earlier, Presidential pilot Kamima Nyirenda, a pilot in the Zambia Air Force (ZAF), testified that Findlay had never been on board whenever the Presidential aircraft, Gulfstream 650 (AF001), has been flown abroad.
He, however, said there was a time on April 2, last year when Findlay was a passenger on the Presidential Jet on a local flight from Lusaka to Ndola.
This is a matter in which Kambwili is charged with defamation of the President following a complaint filed in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court by the New Congress party leader president Peter Chanda.
It is alleged that between September 1 and 12, last year in Lusaka, Kambwili with intent to bring the name of the President into hatred, ridicule and contempt published defamatory matter affecting President Edgar 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.
When the matter came up for continued trial, Monday, Nyirenda, 47, testified that his duties were to fly President Lungu, adding that he started flying the Head of State from the time he was Minister of Home Affairs, until now.
He told the court that he came to know about this matter through the papers, between September 9 and 12, 2019 and that he was surprised when he read about the allegations.
“I was surprised to read in the paper that the Presidential Jet had been associated with the carriage of huge sums of money and drugs. That it had been alleged to have been flown to the State of Israel, and that whenever this aircraft went abroad, Mr Valden Findlay was aboard,” Nyirenda said.
He said the assertions were purely meant to bring the name of President Lungu into disrepute.
Nyirenda said at no point had the Gulfstream 650 (AF001) ever been flown to Israel, nor had Findlay been on board whenever the said aircraft had been flown abroad.
“What I know about these allegations is that there is no truth to it because at no point has Mr Findlay been on board whenever the Presidential aircraft, the Gulfstream 650 (AF001) has been flown abroad. Further at no point has this aircraft ever been flown to Israel. [These] facts are well documented in the flight authorisation book,” he said
Nyirenda said the security personnel from State House were charged with the responsibility of ensuring that there were no occurrences relating to the carriage of drugs or huge sums of money which cannot be accounted for [on the Presidential aircraft].
He explained that as the aircraft captain, whenever the Presidential aircraft arrives anywhere, he was always the first to come out followed by the rest of his crew.
Nyirenda said once they had lined up, the chief cabin attendant invites the President to alight from the aircraft, and that at that point, the President alights with his aide-de-camp right behind him.
He said hours before the departure time, security personnel from State House provide him with a manifest of expected passengers for the flight.
Nyirenda further said the statement that “whenever the President goes abroad, the next person to come out of the plane was Findlay” was not true because at no point had there ever been such an occurrence.
He, however, said there was a time on April 2, 2019 when Findlay was a passenger on the Presidential Jet on a local flight from Lusaka to Ndola.
The witness also produced in court the flight authorisation book, his personal pilot’s log book and his passport as part of his evidence.
In cross examination, defence lawyer Keith Mweemba put it to the witness that President Lungu was in Israel in February 2017, but in response Nyirenda said he doesn’t know that because he was not flying the President at that time.
He however, agreed that the person who flew the President to Israel at that time was the one who could tell whether he (President Lungu) flew with Findlay to Israel.
Nyirenda also agreed that he was not the only one who flies the President, and further admitted that it was a fact that the President had been flown by foreign pilots.
After the witness finished with his testimony, the Prosecution team informed the court that it had closed its case.
At this point, Magistrate Kaoma said since the Prosecution had closed its case, he found it not necessary to adjourn the matter for submissions and therefore proceeded to deliver his ruling on case or no case to answer.
He said from the evidence on record, it appeared to him that there was sufficient evidence establishing a prima facie case against Kambwili for the offence defamation of the President as charged.
Magistrate Kaoma found the accused with a case to answer and accordingly put him on his defence.
The matter comes up on February 15 and 17, 2021 for defence.