By Duncan Mlanjira
Member of Parliament (MP) for Thyolo South, Chimwemwe Chipungu has filed defamation charges at the High Court in Lilongwe on fellow legislator, Blantyre City South Constituency MP, Noel Lipipa over allegations that Lipipa made on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Youth Blantyre City whatsapp group.
But Lipipa says he is unmoved over the charges, saying he is ready to defend the claims he made that alleges that Chipungu misappropriated money he received from former President Peter Mutharika to pay election monitors.
Through lawyers, Clarkes Attorneys, Chipungu — who is also DPP’s organising secretary — is claiming damages for defamation that he misappropriated money belonging to the former President meant for election monitors and also for damages for loss of public image and mental stress.
The summons from the Court says on July 1, 2020, Lipipa “falsely and maliciously wrote and published of and concerning the claimant the following Chichewa words: ‘Ndalama zimabedwa bwana osadziwa nde amawopa kuti tikawayandikira bwana tinena. Pano ma MP ena ndalama za ma monitor Chipungu sanakawapatsebe koma bwana ananena kuti anapereka aliyense akumva’.”
The English translation is money was stolen without the boss’ (President Mutharika) knowledge so they were afraid that if we get close to the boss we will tell him. As of now some MPs have not yet received money meant for election monitors from Chipungu but the boss said in the presence of us all that he released the money.
Chipungu says the message was published and shared to 156 people on the DPP Youth Blantyre City whatsapp group of which Chipungu is not a member.
“The words in their natural and ordinary meaning meant and were understood to mean:
(a) that the claimant is a dishonest and untrustworthy person
(b) that the claimant is a thief and therefore not fit the positions he was accorded in the Party as well as in Government
(c) that the claimant is a crook and influenced the loss of the DPP during the 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections.
“By reason of the above, the claimant has been much injured in his credit and reputation and has been brought into public hatred, ridicule and contempt,” says Chipungu in the Summons.
In their summons, Chipungu’s lawyers have given Lipipa 28 days from July 3 to either satisfy the claim or file with the Court a defence list of documents.
“If you do not intend to contest the proceedings you must within 14 days after service of this Summons on you, inclusive of the day of service, return accompanying response stating therein that you do not intend to contest the proceedings but desire a stay enforcement judgement, if any.
“TAKE NOTICE that if you fail to satisfy the claim or to file a Defence and list of documents or to return the Response without stating an intention to contest the proceedings, the claimant may proceed with the claim and judgement may be entered against you without further notice.”
After the whatsapp group conversation with the DPP youths, Chipungu had immediately contacted Lipipa asking which money he was referring to and Lipipa answered that it was for wife of former minister Kondwani Nankhumwa.
“Bwana said in that meeting he gave all the money to you,” Lipipa said, adding that the people meant to be paid were 8 in total.
Chipungu then asked if the President meant he gave the money to MP Mphepo but Lipipa insisted that even Mphepo confirmed that Mutharika gave the money to Chipungu.
When threatened that he shall treat the allegations as character assassination, Lipipa responded to say it’s not defamation, saying “you either follow up what happened to their funds for this is not fair. You have not been fair on your fellow Members of Parliament”.
Lipipa even challenged if he could call Mphepo for the three to have a conference call chat to which Chipungu just said: “You’ve made a final statement on groups that it’s me. So let’s take it from there”.
Lipipa retorted by saying: “You are too comfortable sitting on people’s money you don’t even care to follow up on the money. It’s clear you took the money.
“It’s your responsibility to make sure they get their money. I want stop. I hate people that steal.
“As the national organising secretary, it’s only honourable for you to transparently account for each kwacha if you are to be deemed clean,” Lipipa told Chipungu.
Sources privy to the matter claim that some politicians within DPP just want to hit at Lipipa because of late he has been on social media condemning the massive plunder of public resources.
“Lipipa seems to be pro-Tonse Alliance in most of his comments on Facebook, which is irking some top DPP officials.
“So they are using this case to try and destroy Lipipa. There are deep divisions within the Party,” said one source.
Lipipa himself just said he cannot comment much because the matter is in the Court but vowed to defend himself and is ready to have Mutharika as a witness as well as 103 DPP MPs that attended the said caucus where the President revealed whom he gave the money to.