POST editor Fred M'membe yesterday said The Post fully knows, understands what is going on and is ready for it.

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 anything.

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 Ndulo.

"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 the order."

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 corporate entity.
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.

He 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.

Magistrate 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.

"The sentences shall run concurrently," said magistrate Simusamba.

This means 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 Prison.

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.

Commenting on 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.

Mumba, who 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 temporary setback.

"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 members.