Justice Minister Accused of Lying to U.S. on Human Rights

KabimbaZambia’s Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, who also serves as secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front party, has been accused of spreading misinformation to the media in response to the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2012 on Zambia published by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. State Department.

The report in question lists a number of human rights violations committed by the the PF government, including but not limited to arrests of opposition leaders, unlawful banning of rallies, incitement of political violence, and mistreatment of sexual minorities.

The State Department’s report also addresses the question of academic freedom, citing the case of the dismissal on August 12, 2012 of a professor of journalism, Clayson Hamasaka, from his teaching position at Evelyn Hone College allegedly because he invited opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema to appear on the college radio station.

On May 17, Mr Kabimba issued a statement to the media dismissing the conclusions of the report, in particular addressing the firing of Mr Hamasaka, whom Kabimba said “was dismissed after complaints of victimisation from members of staff who did not belong to his political party (UPND)” rather than as a consequence for exercising his free speech.

In a letter sent this week by Mr Hamasaka addressed to Mr Kabimba and copied to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, the academic lecturer stoutly denies Kabimba’s statements as falsehoods, and issues him a five-day ultimatum to apologise for his misleading statement.

“I found this statement utterly shocking, very malicious, scandalous and damaging to my image and reputation as a young professional who served my country diligently for more than 16 years at the college without any documented case of inappropriate behaviour on my part,” Mr Hamasaka writes in the letter, making note that over the course of 16 years employment at Evelyn Hone, he had never been subject to any disciplinary hearing, which would have been the required protocol for dismissal if in fact there had been accusations of harassment by colleagues or students.

The letter goes to not that Mr Hamasaka’s wife was also dismissed from her government position without reason exactly one week after he had been removed from the college.

“Hon. Minister sir, as a family we have so far suffered great humiliation and gone through a traumatising experience at the hands of our own elected government and any acts that perpetuates our psychological and emotional suffering further inflicts more pain to the already troubled family with young kids to look after,” Hakasaka writes. “By your portrayal and allegations against our family, as people who are highly intolerant, you are further alienating us from society, international community and subsequently to would be employers.”

The letter states that Hamasaka may seek legal redress against the Minister of Justice personally for maligning my name to the whole world, especially that his response has been widely publicised in one of the leading newspapers in the country (Post newspaper Saturday May 18, 2013 and Monday, 20 May 20, 2013).

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