Fred M'membe being escorted to Lusaka Central remand prison under heavy guard.
This was shortly after being sentenced to serve four months with hard labour by
Lusaka magistrate David Simusamba.— The
Post editor Fred M'membe yesterday
said The Post fully knows, understands what is going on and is ready for
And M'membe calmly entered Lusaka Central Prison (Chimbokaila) at
exactly 13.40 hours yesterday after attempts by his lawyers to secure bail
pending appeal for him failed.
Speaking in a very brief interview shortly
before he was sentenced to four months imprisonment with hard labour for
publication of contemptuous material, M'membe said The Post was ready for
This is in a matter in which M'membe and The Post were on
Wednesday convicted on a charge of contempt arising from the publication of an
article in The Post of August 27, 2009 titled: "The Chansa Kabwela case: A
comedy of Errors", authored by United States-based Zambian Professor of law Muna
"I just want to say that we understand what is going on. We fully
know what is going on and we are ready for it," said M'membe, two hours before
Lusaka senior resident magistrate David Simusamba sentenced him to four months
imprisonment with hard labour.
Passing the sentence, magistrate Simusamba
said on June 2, 2010 when the verdict in the matter was pronounced, M'membe's
defence lawyers offered mitigation arguing that according to the position at
law, when an offence had an option of a fine or a custodial sentence, the option
of a fine ought to be considered.
Magistrate Simusamba said the defence
argued that the offence for which their clients had been convicted was not
aggravating. However, he said after looking at the circumstances of the
contempt, it was his considered opinion that a fine was not appropriate. He said
the offence on which M'membe and The Post had been convicted posed a real risk
of interfering with the fair administration of justice.
"The core lies in
the fair administration of justice and any interference may have far reaching
consequences," magistrate Simusamba said. "It is incumbent upon court to restore
Magistrate Simusamba said in order to reform the convict and
deter others from engaging into such kind of behaviour, it was his considered
view that a fine was not appropriate in the case.
"I thus order a four
months imprisonment with hard labour for A1 (M'membe) now the first convict,"
magistrate Simusamba said.
He said he had directed his mind over the
nature of accused number two (The Post), which he said was an entity, and that
the position of the law had always been to punish the directing mind of that
He said Post Human Resource manager, Reuben Phiri, who
representing The Post as accused number two, was just the administration manager
of the corporate entity called The Post.
"Mr. Reuben Phiri can't be the
right person to suffer punishment," magistrate Simusamba said.
Phiri's duty at The Post had nothing to do with offence before court and that
since M'membe was the editor-in-chief of the corporate entity known as The Post,
it could not be doubted that he was the mind of the entity.
Simusamba again sentenced M'membe to four months simple imprisonment in place of
The Post in that he was the controlling mind behind the entity.
sentences shall run concurrently," said magistrate Simusamba.
M'membe is supposed to serve four months in prison.
But M'membe's lawyer
Remmy Mainza said in an interview that they would proceed to apply for bail
pending appeal immediately.
However, around 13.30 hours a group of
sympathisers and journalists that had been waiting at the Lusaka Magistrates'
Court holding cell in view of the bail application process, ran towards Ridgeway
Police Post when they noticed that M'membe was being led to Lusaka Central
Passersby and some women at the Prison Clinic watched in
amazement as M'membe crossed the dividing road between the court and the prison
under police escort.
After saying goodbye to family members and friends,
amidst warning from prison guards, M'membe - who was adorning a cap, checked
shirt and blue jeans - entered Lusaka Central Prison.
M'membe's imprisonment, Federation of Free Trade Unions (FFTUZ) president Joyce
Nonde Simukoko said the verdict was saddening.
"But we will respect the
decision," said Simukoko.
National Revolution Party (NRP) president Cosmo
Mumba said the sentence was a total injustice to the country.
was among those that attended the court hearing, said the campaign started by
the MMD government to silence voices would not work.
Change Life Zambia
(CLZ) executive director Fr Frank Bwalya described M'membe's imprisonment as a
"The MMD and their system have become pigs in the
country's animal farms. What I mean is that the rule of law in this country has
gone to the dogs unlike under the late president Levy Mwanawasa, which was a
government of laws and not men. The current government with Mr Rupiah Banda is a
government of men," Fr Bwalya said. "It is highly regrettable. It should have
been an acquittal but we respect the decision of the court. We are very
disappointed that it is a custodial sentence given the fact that it was a
misdemeanor. It would have been more appropriate to fine."
Fr Bwalya said
there was need to forge ahead in supporting The Post.
"We know that this
conviction will not deter The Post. They have gone through worse situations like
this. It is a temporary setback," said Fr Bwalya.
Others that attended
the hearing included Heritage Party leader Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda,
retired High Court judge Kabazo Chanda, Post employees and M'membe's family