The President of Zambia Michael Sata has unleashed a slew of new lawsuit targeting his political opponents, including the United Party for National Development UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, Daily Nation proprietor Richard Sakala, and editor of the online publication Zambian Watchdog’s Lloyd Himambo for alleged defamation of character.
In a separate lawsuit, the President is also suing London-based international lawyer Robert Amsterdam (who represents Rupiah Banda and Henry Banda), University of Zambia history lecturer Dr Choolwe Beyani, and Richard Sakala for libel.
The latest lawsuit marks the fourth time Mr Sata has sued Mr. Hichilema and Mr. Sakala within a space of four weeks.
The President is seeking an injunction to restrain all the defendants, their servants or argents from further publishing any similar defamatory articles contained in the May 7, 8, 14, 15 and 16 editions of the Daily Nation newspaper in 2012.
Mr Sata is also claiming for general and exemplary damages for defamation of character, interest at current bank rate saying unless the defendants were restrained by the High Court each would continue to publish defamatory words.
Mr Sata through his lawyers from Ellis and Company stated Hichilema on May 15 this year caused an article to be published on the Zambian Watchdog claiming that he was corrupt and lacked integrity and had aided and abetted corruption by awarding a contract to Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda to renovate State House and interfered in the DBZ bank case.
“That in consequence, the plaintiff’s reputation has been seriously damaged and he has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment,” read part of the statement of claim obtained from the Lusaka High Court.
In the suit involving Robert Amsterdam, the President said that on May 7 and 8 this year the defendant caused to be published material where he accused him of putting pressure on the office of the Attorney General to close the K14 billion Development Bank of Zambia debt to JCN Holdings and the Post Newspapers.
Mr Sata claims that in their natural and ordinary meaning the words were meant to mean that and understood that Mr Sata was corrupt and lacked integrity and had abetted corruption and the abuse of public funds and caused DBZ lawyer Vincent Malambo from being removed from acting on behalf of the bank.
And Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba has also sued the Daily Nation proprietor Richard Sakala for libel and is seeking for an injunction to restrain the news paper from publishing any articles as well as demanding for K500,000 million as compensation.
Press freedom observers have decried the president’s lawsuits, which are seen as an attempt to violate Zambian citizen’s constitutional rights to free expression. Other critics point out that Mr. Sata should not engage in filing civil suits against citizens, as he holds presidential immunity and therefore enjoys an unfair advantage over opponents who are unable to counter sue.