LUSAKA Principal Magistrate Kenneth Mulife yesterday dismissed all the grounds by Rainbow Party leader Wynter Kabimba and Post Newspaper owner Fred M’membe to adjourn a contempt of court case for which the duo have been put on their defence after contemptuously causing the publication of defamatory stories against former president Rupiah Banda over the Nigerian oil case which were at the time in court.
Mr Kabimba and Mr M’membe were supposed to start defending themselves of criminal libel and ccontempt of court after Magistrate Mulife established a prima facie case against the duo for contemptuously causing the publication of stories against former president Banda on matters that were at the time in court.
But when the matter came yesterday, Mr Kabimba and Mr M’membe’s lawyers Eddie Mwitwa and M. Chikuleka applied for an adjournment on grounds that there was duplicity in the matter for which the duo had been found with a case to answer and the Mutembo Nchito Tribunal.
Mr Kabimba and Mr M’membe’s lawyers in their application for an adjournment submitted that the case could not go ahead because the complainant, former president Banda and the lead prosecutor, Keith Mweemba were not in court.
But former president Banda through his lawyers Makebi Zulu and Jonas Zimba argued that the Mutembo Nchito tribunal was an administrative proceeding and could therefore not take precedence over a criminal matter in the Magistrates Court.
Mr Zimba said the prosecution was vehemently opposed to the application for an adjournment because apart from the Nchito Tribunal being administrative, Mr Nchito had elected to represent himself in the proceedings and therefore could not be the reason for applying for an adjournment.
“We vehemently oppose the application by the defence to adjourn the matter because there has been the mention of the Mutembo Nchito Tribunal which is an administrative matter and cannot take precedence over matters before this court. It is a fact that Mutembo Nchito, is representing himself and the indication that Mr Nchito’s advocate, Nchima Nchito is before the High Court is not backed by documents or any exhibit. Assuming that indeed Mr Nchito’s advocate is at the High Court, we can proceed in the afternoon. We are here and ready to proceed. The sum total of our submissions is that the application for an adjournment should be refused,” Mr Zimba argued.
In his ruling, Magistrate Mulife dismissed all the arguments by the defence but however ruled that in the interest of justice, he was adjourning the matter to 22nd and 24th of March, 2016 for the duo to commence their defence.
Magistrate Mulife ruled that the Mutembo Nchito Tribunal could not be a ground to apply for an adjournment as the tribunal was administrative and could not take precedence over the criminal proceedings in his court.
Magistrate Mulife ruled that he had carefully considered the arguments from both parties and that regarding the Mutembo Nchito Tribunal; it could not take precedence over criminal proceedings in his court.
Former President Banda last year sued Mr M’membe and Mr Kabimba for criminal libel for contemptuously causing the publication of a story in which the duo defamed the former head of State when they declared him a criminal who was working with President Edgar Lungu to prosecute embattled and suspended Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito.
Last year, the Post Newspaper published an article under the headline “Lungu’s Government is framing Nchito to cover Rupiah’s criminality” in which Mr Kabimba and Mr M’membe accused the former president of scheming with President Lungu to prosecute Mr Nchito.
On whether former president Banda was expected to attend court at all times, Magistrate Mulife ruled that he was only going to give guidance on 22nd March, 2016.