Allegations about Paladin’s Payoffs: President’s son sues prominent human rights activist over Facebook comments

In November 2012, the Member of Parliament for Thyolo Thava Lifred Nawena claimed in the National Assembly that a top government official’s child had received MWK 40 million (approx. USD 121, 500) from the managers of Paladin Africa Ltd. Paladin responded to the accusations and said they were unfounded and that bribery is a breach of company policy. The Anti-Corruption Bureau is currently investigating allegations.

Today, two media houses (The Daily Times and Nyasa Times) have reported that the Malawian president’s son Roy Kachale Banda, also Managing Director at the Joyce Banda Foundation, has successfully sued human rights activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire for damages over a comment Mkandawire allegedly posted on Facebook in which it was stated that Kachale received MWK 40 million from Paladin.

Kachale sued Mkandawire in November 2012 over the comment that appeared on 22 November. The latter did not defend himself in court and has “disowned his Facebook account” according to The Daily TimesThe High Court in Blantryre ruled in Kachale’s favour and was set to assess damages yesterday, but Kachale was out of the country.

Mkandawire’s Facebook status from 22 November has been reported as:

This is the official response from the Head of Paladin Greg Walker: after claims from Nawena, I called him[Walker] and asked him [sic] to clarify on the claims that Paladin has made a MK40 million into an account belonging to the son of Malawi’s Vice President (you are free to quote).

“Dear Benchiza,

It is one thing to make such claims under Parliamentary privileges; another to make it outside the National Assembly. There is no evidence because the accusation is without foundation. Paladin has never and will never pay a bribe or make a political donation to a political party, for that matter.

My response is always the same: if you have evidence, provide it to the Anti-Corruption Bureau here or the Australian Federal Police…

Sincerely,

Greg”

Mkandawire further commented on his own status following responses from Facebook friends,

The deposit was actually made to Roy Kachale Banda, that’s according to information Nawena is sitting on.

In response to these comments, Kachale sought the legal services of lawyer Gloria Mbendera who sued Mkandawire for damages,

The said publication [sic] words were calculated to disparage the plaintiff [Kachale] in his said occupation as the said businessman and at the same time to put him in the bad light in so far as the general public is concerned.

By reason of publication of the said words, the plaintiff has been severely injured in his credit, character and reputation and in the way of his occupation and has been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt.

Mkandawire has commented on why he did not file his defense against Kachale,

He [Kachale] is suing me for something that was on Facebook comments on one of the pseudo accounts which people have created in my name. I am not responsible for what is written on these accounts.

Member of Parliament [Lifred] Nawena, using his parliamentary privileges said he was in possession of evidence that implicates a son of the President in bribery [saying] over MK40 million was paid into the president’s son account.

The case Facebook was abuzz with people repeating exactly what Nawena said, and the name Roy Kachale was mentioned. How is that to do with me?

According to legal experts, Kachale should have sued Nawena for his comments said in parliament as Mkandawire was simply repeating them. Clifton Makwinda, a law practioner, said

From a layman’s point of view Roy Kachale has a personal vendetta against Ben Chiza particular [sic] for his anti Joyce Banda statemts [sic] so probably he just want [sic] to get him for talking ill of his mum which I personally think is a waste of time.

 

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