Chaponda takes on media

Chaponda leaving the court with his wife

Malawi's former Agriculture Minister, George Chaponda was the sole testifier in court in his claim against Blantyre Newspaper Limited (BNL) on Tuesday. 

Chaponda sued BNL for defamation of character over their reporting of his involvement in the 'maizegate saga' of 2017.

He was later found with no criminal case to answer leading to the commencement of the defamation trial.

In his testimony, Chaponda said he was enjoying tranquility but the reporting by Times Media Group's Malawi News, Daily Times and Sunday Times had malicious intent.

Chaponda
Chaponda leaving the court room after adjournment

He claims their reporting led to his public image being tarnished, his removal as minister, resignation as vice president of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and thwarted his ambition to contest for the presidency of the party.

Lawyer for Chaponda, Tamanda Chokotho said: "The claim is for defamation in the reporting by the Daily Times, in the Sunday Times, Malawi News. The reporting was rather unfair and very defamatory, the language used was inflammatory.

"What we are saying is, journalists when exercising their freedom of expression or the right of opinion should be mindful not to hurt or to injure people affected by their articles, they must make fair comments."

Chokotho

Taking to the witness stand, former Managing Editor for Times Group, George Kasakula defended his integrity and that of his editors and reporters.

Kasakula said they were objective and that being a cabinet minister made Chaponda's office accountable to the public.

In defence he explained the maizegate issue was of public interest and that BNL journalists wrote and commented on it fairly.

Kasakula

The now Director General of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) told Judge Dingiswayo Madise he had no personal grudges or malice against Chaponda.

The day-long trial saw Judge Madise adjourn the hearing at around 5:00 pm directing the parties to give submissions in 21 days.

Lawyers for Times Group said they could not comment because they had not bee instructed to speak to the media.

But Chokhotho said: "We have heard the testimonies from the witnesses; Dr Chaponda testified on his own behalf, Mr George Kasakula testified on behalf of the defendants, so right now we will proceed to the writing of submissions which will be done in 21 days, thereafter we should be expecting judgment."

The hearing of the matter started before Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda but then he was transferred to Lilongwe. There had also been a request to conclude the hearing of Chaponda's criminal matter before hearing of the defamation case.

The criminal maizegate issue was concluded in 2018 and judgement of appeal was given in 2020 which Chaponda won.

Chaponda is claiming damages from Times Group’s Editor-in-Chief and Malawi News, Editor George Kasakula, the then Daily Times Editor Innocent Chitosi, then Sunday Times Editor, Chachacha Munthali, Times reporter Alick Ponje and then Daily Times Assistant Editor Madalitso Musa.