A LAW firm, Ellis and Company, has withdrawn from acting for former justice minister Given Lubinda, former lands minister Jean Kapata and former president Edgar Lungu’s daughter, Tasila, in the Mukula smuggling matter in which they sued News Diggers Media Limited and the EIA in January 2020, demanding damages for libel.
Cramos Makanda, from Ellis & Co, states that the firm has ceased from acting for the plaintiffs in the proceedings for good cause.
“I am an advocate of the High Court for Zambia practicing as such in the firm of Messrs. Ellis & Co., and make this Affidavit from facts personally known to me. In or about January, 2020, Ellis & Co., were retained to act for the plaintiffs herein. Ellis & Co., have since ceased from acting for the plaintiff in these proceedings for good cause. The plaintiffs shall continue to be represented by Messrs. Kaunda Kaunda Legal Practitioners,” read the affidavit in support of ex parte summons for leave to withdraw as advocates for the plaintiffs, filed in court on March 21, 2022.
High Court Judge Pixie Yangailo granted the firm permission to withdraw from acting for the plaintiffs on March 23, 2022.
“Upon hearing counsel for the plaintiffs; and upon reading the affidavit of one Cramos Makanda filed in support hereof; it is ordered and directed that leave be and is hereby granted to the firm of Ellis and Co. to withdraw from acting for the plaintiffs; and that costs be in the cause,” read the ex parte order.
Mukanda added that the trio would continue to be represented by Kaunda Kaunda Legal Practitioners.
In this matter, Lubinda, Kapata and Tasila sued News Diggers Media Limited, its managing editor Mukosha Funga and the EIA in connection with a story on illegal Mukula trade which was published in News Diggers! and derived from an EIA report.
Lubinda, Kapata and Tasila are seeking an order of interim and permanent injunction restraining, Funga, News Diggers! and EIA from publishing similar libelous and malicious articles and opinions relating to them.
The trio is also seeking damages against all the defendants for libel contained in News Diggers! newspaper’s edition of December 6, 2019, titled “Lungu, Tasila in Mukula cartel” as well as damages against EIA for libel contained in its publication of December 2019, titled “Mukula cartel how timber trafficking networks plunder Zambian forests”.
Lubinda, Kapata and Tasila also want damages against the defendants for libel in News Diggers’ editorial opinions titled “Mukula smugglers are in govt, cartel members are exposing each other”, “Kampyongo said criminals like using his name, Kapata to smuggle Mukula. Why”, “Remember Kapata said Mukula proceeds were not remitted to Treasury” and “Tasila must learn from Henry Banda”, among other articles and opinions.
But in their defence, the defendants argued that they would show at trial that the plaintiffs and their associates were named by various traders to be involved in the illegal trade of Mukula.
“(i) It is true that high profile figures in the Patriotic Front Government orchestrated and facilitated massive trafficking of Mukula Timber. In fact, the Patriotic Front Government banned the trade in Mukula to exclude duly licensed traders and allow only those in the then Patriotic Front Government and their close associates to freely trade in Mukula and other endangered timber species, hence the term “Mukula Cartel.” (ii) It will be shown at trial that the plaintiffs and their associates were named by various traders to be involved in the illegal trade of Mukula,” the defence read.
“(iii) It is true and will be shown at trial that a housing complex has been built and plots of land allocated in Forest Reserve Number 27 in Lusaka, Zambia and that both the 2nd (Jean Kapata) and 3rd (Tasila Lungu) plaintiffs are beneficiaries; (iv) It will further be shown at trial that the 1st plaintiff (Given Lubinda) received huge amounts of money from Chinese traders connected to Mukula trade and used that same money to purchase property in Forest Reserve Number 27.”
News Diggers and the EIA argued that the Patriotic Front, of which the plaintiffs were part, used to get its political party funding from corrupt activities, including the smuggling of Mukula.
“The defendants deny that the Opinion reproduced in paragraph 26 of the Statement of Claim is defamatory of the plaintiffs and will aver at trial that: (i) The Patriotic Front Party, of which the plaintiffs were part, used to get its political party funding from corrupt activities, including the smuggling of Mukula. (ii) The Patriotic Front Party spent huge and unprecedented volumes of money on campaigns across the country that cannot be accounted for. (iii) The Patriotic Front Party campaign materials were imported from China where the smuggled Mukula was sold. It will be shown at trial that the 2nd plaintiff (Jean Kapata) gave export permits for Mukula to Chinese companies that were friendly to the Patriotic Front Party,” they stated.