Thandiwe Banda wins libel case against Times of Zambia

Former first lady Thandiwe Banda has won a case in which she sued Times of Zambia for defamation following its lies that the State seized property worth billions of Kwacha, including a hotel in neighbouring Malawi and some apartments in Tanzania from her.

The Times of Zambia copuld not even defend itself. They went to court and said ‘we have no defence.

The Watchdog is hereby urging madam Banda to send her lawyers and bailiffs to grab all the property at Times of Zambia.

Government newspapers and its cadre editors should learn a lesson and realise that unlike private media, they use tax payers money. Besides, Times of Zambia serves no useful purpose. Even if is was closed the country will lose nothing.

In this case, Thandiwe, former president Rupiah Banda’s wife, sued Times of Zambia and its managing director Godfrey Malama as first and second defendants respectively following the publication of a story alleging that the State had seized the said properties from the ex-first lady.

According to the Times of Zambia story, the luxurious apartments linked to Mpundu Trust Limited in Lusaka and other properties within the country were also lined up for seizure from the embattled first family.

Thandiwe later instructed her lawyers to commence defamation proceedings against the newspaper and a consent judgment was entered in her favour.

She claimed compensatory damages for libel, aggravated and exemplary damages for libel and an injunction restraining the defendants from further publishing or causing to be published similar words defamatory of her.

Thandiwe also claimed costs and interest and any other relief the court deemed fit.

Ruling on an application for assessment of damages on Monday, Lusaka High Court deputy registrar Wilfred Muma said the liability in the matter was premised on the consent order of the parties dated September 20, 2012.

“The defendant will make good the damages occasioned to the plaintiff by an appropriate payment of damages as pleaded by the plaintiff in the statement of claim taking into account that the defendants concede at this stage before trial that they have no defence,” read the ruling in part.

Muma held that the argument by the Times of Zambia that it published the defamatory matter once only and never repeated the libel thereafter, and that the conduct should not warrant award of aggravated and exemplary damages to the plaintiff, does not hold at all.

Muma said Thandiwe had demonstrated that the publication was proliferated by the reactions from other online publications such as the Zambia Watchdog and Nyasa Times of Malawi, which in all respects made reference to the Times of Zambia article.

He further ruled that had Times of Zambia offered a timely apology, such a proliferation would not have arisen.

On the rental component, Muma noted that even though the valuation report had not indicated the market rental value for the property in issue, Thandiwe had demonstrated the same by producing receipts of rental for four units that had been occupied.

He awarded Thandiwe compensatory damages at K12,000 per unit per month for the unoccupied units from January 2012 when the same were due for occupation to the date when the full payment shall be paid.Muma said interest should be calculated at the current bank lending rate.

He stated that he had considered the sum of K20,000 to be appropriate for aggravated exemplary damages and exemplary damages respectively.

Muma also awarded costs in favour of Thandiwe.


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