FORMER Deputy Minister of Finance Newton Ng’uni has denied being used by Government to frame suspended Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito to cover up former President Rupiah Banda’s alleged criminality.
This is in a case in which former Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, Post Newspaper owner Fred M’membe and The Post Newspaper have been charged with contempt of court and libel.
In this case, Mr Banda has asked the court to cite Kabimba, M’membe and The Post Newspaper for contempt of court for commenting on matters that are before the courts of law.
When the matter came up for trial before Lusaka magistrate Kenneth Mulife yesterday, Mr Ng’uni, 58, an economist of Lusaka’s Makeni, denied being bought by anyone to fix Mr Nchito, who was prosecuting Mr Banda.
“On February 13, this year, I bought newspapers and one of them was The Post Newspaper. There was an article headlined: ‘Lungu’s Govt is framing Nchito to cover Rupiah’s criminality-Kabimba’.”
“The gist of the article was that prior to the January 20 presidential election, President Lungu had entered into an agreement with Mr Banda with the sole purpose of fixing Mr Nchito who was prosecuting Mr Banda. The paper also mentioned that I had been bought or hired to consolidate the agreement,” Mr Ng’uni said.
He said he was never bought by anyone or any Government to help fix Mr Nchito.
Mr Ng’uni added that he is not privy to any agreement that has allegedly been entered into between President Lungu’s Government and Mr Banda.
Mr Ng’uni said he felt defamed and injured because he has never been bought by anyone in his entire life to help fix other people.
He said Kabimba, M’membe and The Post Newspaper should have consulted him before publishing the story.
Mr Ngúni could not be cross-examined because lawyers representing Mr Banda had made an amendment to the indictment, which prompted the defence to apply for a 20-minute adjournment to enable them to study the fresh charge.
But Mr Banda’s lawyers asked the court not to entertain the application on grounds that the case which Kabimba and M’membe are facing is well-known adding that the State should not delay the matter.
One of the lawyers representing Mr Banda, Sakwiba Sikota, argued that the courts should not grant an adjournment because Mr Ng’uni’s evidence did not depart from the article or charge sheet.
But Kabimba and M’membe’s lawyer, Nchima Nchito, asked the court to grant the application for an adjournment because his clients are entitled to justice.
But Mr Mulife refused to grant the application for an adjournment and ordered that the proceedings continue.
At this point, the defence made a second application for an adjournment on grounds that Mr Kabimba had to go for physiotherapy at 14:30 hours because of the knee problem he is allegedly having.
Mr Mulife granted the application for an adjournment to today.
In his complaint, Mr Banda alleged that he was labelled a criminal in The Post publication of February 13 this year, titled: `Lungu’s govt is framing Nchito to cover Rupiah’s criminality- Kabimba’.
Mr Banda noted that he has been appearing before the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court on two separate charges of corruption before chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda and principle resident magistrate Obbister Musukwa.
Mr Banda said he has never been convicted of any crime by any court of competent jurisdiction within or outside Zambia despite being charged with the alleged corrupt practices.
He further noted that Mr Musukwa found that Mr Banda was presumed innocent until proven guilty and the proceedings must be reported accurately and fairly.
Mr Banda said he asked his lawyer Makebi Zulu to write to the accused persons that the comments were contemptuous and defamatory and they should render an apology and retract the said comments.
He said Kabimba neglected and or refused to heed the letter and went further to reiterate this position by stating that he would neither apologise to Mr Banda nor retract his comments.
Mr Banda also said the matters complained of are capable of prejudicing him in the cases before the court, which are criminal in nature, and that the courts are yet to determine whether he is a criminal.
He observed that the comments complained of contravene and defy the ruling of the court and that they are contemptuous and defamatory in accordance with the law.