The acquittal of journalist Clayson Hamasaka of false charges of possession of obscene material is another testimony that despite intimidation and bribery, courts can still deliver justice. It is a direct indictment of President Edgar Lungu and his mob of dictators.
We have witnessed from 2011 and especially during the time Edgar Lungu served as minister in charge of the police how the courts tried under difficult conditions to protect citizens’ fundamental freedoms. It was under Lungu’s reign as minister of Home Affairs that a number of people were deported from Zambia for no proper reasons. Priests, businessmen and doctors were bundled and kicked out of the country after Lungu signed deportations orders.
Among the more than 20 people deported by Lungu as Home Affairs minister were Larfage cement Managing director Fola Esan, Fr Banyangandora who was deported to Rwanda, Egyptian Shafik Mohammed ,a doctor who was operating in Livingstone and even their current sponsors the Ventrliglias were also deported. Armcor Security Company’s managing director Jan Paxtson and his operations director Basil Mark Pietersen were deported by Lungu.
Any suggestions therefor that Lungu was acting on orders from Michael Sata are simply silly. Lungu is a normal human being and cannot claim that he was forced to commit crimes by another person. He was not even under duress. Even when you are under duress, you do not harm an innocent person to save yourself, on in this case, deport an innocent person to preserve your job. This argument has always been used by soldiers who kill civilians under the pretext of obeying orders from superiors. Courts reject such silly excuses. If Lungu did not agree with Sata’s policies, he should have resigned like most ethical people do. But the truth is that it was not even Sata who was making Lungu sign the deportation orders. In most cases, Lungu was receiving bribes from rival businessmen to deport others.
Journalists were not spared. Clayson Hamasaka and Wilson Pondamali were rounded up and detained and given false charges just to silence critical voices. The two were thought of being behind the Zambian Watchdog operations. But due to the same dullness that Lungu is exhibiting now, the charges could not be sustained so they cooked up other charges including planting nude photos in Hamasaka’s computer.
We do remember how the courts especially the magistrate courts tried under difficult conditions to protect Lungu’s victims.
Despite threats on the courts and paying prosecutors huge sums of money, the courts acquitted Wilson Pondamali on two counts of malicious damage to property and attempted escape from lawful custody. That was in February 2014. Lungu was minister of Home Affairs and this was a direct admonition to him.
The magistrate had to sit on a Saturday just to make sure that the journalist was not harassed further.
But Hamasaka’s case took longer to be disposed of because the government had more interest in Hamasaka and wanted him jailed at all costs. When they failed to prove the case in court, they transferred the magistrate hearing the case to the village so that he does not acquit the journalist. Thus began Hamasaka’s mental anguish of going to court every week just to be told that the magistrate had not travelled to Lusaka.
That is how we see Hamasaka’s acquittal. It is an on-going resistance by the courts to be used by the PF as instruments to punish critical voices with opposing views. We are proud of most magistrates and a few High Court judges. The Supreme Court is a disaster and plays no role in defending people’s rights where the PF regime is involved.
But the magistrate courts have to a large extent performed very well. As late as last week, Lungu was ordering the police t o arrest his political foes. But we are hopeful that the courts will once more refuse to be used by Lungu to silence dissenting views.
Hamasaka and Pondamali must thank the independent minded magistrates courts other wise Lungu would have drunk more wine at the news that they had been jailed.