Thursday, March 11, 2010

Habasonda describes High Court judgment as unjust and unfair

Habasonda describes High Court judgment as unjust and unfair
By Mwala Kalaluka and Laura Hamusute
Thu 11 Mar. 2010, 07:40 CAT

Lusaka High Court judge Florence Lengalenga has stayed execution of the judgment dismissing an application by SACCORD for a review of the government’s decision to de -register it.

THE Southern African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has said the High Court judgment that upheld its de-registration by the government reinforces the tyrannical tendencies and arbitrary actions by political leaders.

And Lusaka High Court judge Florence Lengalenga has stayed execution of the judgment dismissing an application by SACCORD for a review of the government’s decision to de -register it.

During a press briefing held at the SACCORD offices in Lusaka yesterday, executive director Lee Habasonda said while they had complied with judge Lengalenga’s judgment in favour of the state, they did not agree with it at all.

“We find it unjust, unfair and an affront to our civil liberties,” Habasonda said. “Above all, it has put the High Court itself on trial as we have two separate judgments from the same court that are diametrically opposed to each other. It is therefore, the court that has come under scrutiny before the world.”

Habasonda said it was unthinkable that when Zambia was supposed to be progressing in terms of democracy, the dispensers of justice were seen to be upholding colonial legal relics that were designed for first and second class citizens.

“Such insensitivity is a negation of the duty to foster and promote a just and democratic society,” Habasonda said. “This cruel piece of judgment will not deter us, it will not cower us down. We are resolved to soldier on.”

Habasonda said the people at SACCORD had searched their souls and were petrified and puzzled by the government’s penchant to annihilate the non-governmental organisation.

“Naa mbalombwana ncobeni let them say cibi ncitwakacita. Otherwise, Ino cinzi ncobayanda If they are real men let them say what wrong we have done.

Otherwise, what do they want?” Habasonda asked. “They should not be cowards who want to hide under the rubric of state security. They cannot continue to harass us because we criticise them.”

Habasonda said the government was expressing failed leadership.
“We can’t live on court injunctions for the whole of our lives without any explanation. We deserve to be treated fairly.

If they hate us so much, they must not seek to destroy us indirectly. Let them kill us directly since they have the guns and hopefully they can govern happily ever,” he said.

“If we don’t unite to resist the rising tendencies of dictatorship and monstrous political behaviour the little of the remaining freedoms will be completely exhausted.”

Habasonda said SACCORD shall go all the way even if it meant petitioning the African Union and the United Nations or any other actor in the international community.

“By having the stay of execution of the High Court judgment, it means SACCORD has retained its legal personality and shall operate and conduct business normally until the Supreme Court rules on the matter,” said Habasonda.

In this matter, SACCORD applied for judicial review against the government’s decision of 2004 to deregister it.

SACCORD, through Habasonda contended that the aforementioned decision was a violation of the freedom of expression and association as enshrined in and protected by the Constitution.

Habasonda added that the then minister of home affairs had refused to disclose the reasons for the de-registration of SACCORD, among other things.

The then minister of home affairs communicated his decision to de-register SACCORD through a letter on November 11, 2004.

Habasonda in response, requested government to indicate the activities SACCORD had engaged in that were inimical and a danger to state security.

In his affidavit, Habasonda deposed that the minister did not formally respond to his letter dated 15th November, 2004 but was reported in the Times of Zambia of 17th November, 2004 as having said he was not obliged at law to state the exact security threats or to give the applicant a hearing.

He refuted claims that SACCORD had engaged in activities that were inimical and a danger to State security.

But the government through the then minister of home affairs argued in his affidavit in opposition that there had been no procedural impropriety in the decision to de-register SACCORD.

He further deposed that he had given reasons for his decision that the applicant had engaged itself in activities, which were inimical and dangerous to state security but he was not bound under the law or in anyway bound to disclose the basis of how he had arrived at his decision.

The minister said the applicant's right to be heard before cancellation did not apply to his decision under the societies Act.

In handing down judgment, judge Lengalenga ruled that the decision in question by the then minister of home affairs did not violate the applicant's SACCORD’s freedom of expression and association therefore not contravening Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution.

Judge Lengalenga established that by Section 13 of the societies Act, CAP 119, the minister had discretion to cancel the registration of any society.
It is against this background that she dismissed the application.

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