Zambia: President Sata Sues Citizens, Media Criticizing Him

Zambian President Michael Sata is suing an opposition leader, a newspaper, a radio station and an academic for alleged defamation.

President Sata recently sued United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema, the Daily Nation newspaper, radio station Hot FM and University of Zambia lecturer Cholwe Beyani for defamation of character and demanded to be paid K1.2 billionor US$266,667 in damages.

Hakainde Hichilema during a radio interview. Picture courtesy of UKZambians.

President Sata also indicated that he wanted Hichilema to retract the defamatory story published in The Daily Nation newspaper edition of May 16,2012 in which the paper quoted the opposition leader as saying Sata awarded a K600 million contract to his friend to renovate State House.

The Lusaka Times story quotes the letter to the Daily Nation as saying:

“We have been retained by Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata, the current president of Zambia and of the Patriotic Front political party, to act for him in a matter concerning your defamation of him in the article in the Nation Newspaper edition published on 8th of May, 2012 (Vol. 2, Issue 175) entitled ‘Sata Shielding Crooks.’”

President Sata also demanded a retraction, an apology and K500 million from a University of Zambia (Unza) lecturer Cholwe Beyani for defamation who was quoted as saying the removal of lawyer Vincent Malambo from representing the Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) was an attempt by the head of state to shield his friends from prosecution.

Sata also filed a defamation suit against Hichilema over alleged defamatory remarks the UPND leader made when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot seat live programme on April 26. President Sata is demanding K500 million as compensation.

Sata in his suit also also demanded another K500 million from Hot FM Radio as the publisher of the alleged defamatory remarks and for the radio station to retract the defamatory remarks made by Hichilema.

According to instructions sent to his lawyers Ituna Partners, Hichilema has been given 7 days to apologize and retract the statements he made.

On May 11th, the offices of international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, representing former President Rupiah Banda’s son, Henry, wanted in Zambia for questioning on allegations of various crimes that may have been committed during his father’s reign, received correspondence from President Sata’s legal representatives threatening litigation and demanding compensation in response to public statements made by Mr Amsterdam on the PF’s government’s pursuit of political opponents.

Said the sharp-tongued Amsterdam (this author has interviewed him before):

“President Sata’s crude efforts to silence and bully opponents with threats and intimidation will not work, and we would in fact welcome the opportunity to lead a serious public debate on the unlawful conduct of this administration… As a public figure, I had no idea that President Sata was so sensitive to criticism, but given this government’s stance toward freedom of the press, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

While President Sata is suing citizens, he himself is constitutionally immune from civil and criminal prosecution as head of state. Netizens have added their voice to the President suing his critics. The president has also sought to control citizen media websites most of whom are critical of him.

Commenting on the Zambian Watchdog, Mambwe wrote:

Close friends of Sata (Guy Scott, GBM, Kambwili) should pluck up some courage to advise their President that his Republican status does not allow him to behave like an ordinary man in the streets of Lusaka, Kitwe of Ndola where he can exercise the luxury of making money by sueing percieved enemies to courts. A President must learn to absorb cruel and well-meaning criticism from the public. The Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park have preserved such a facility where the Queen can be criticised severely. If Sata is sensitive to honest criticism, then he must resign, declare to forego his presidential immunity and face his colleagues on a level playing ground. His lawyers will have to fight it out with other sharp-shooting talented legal minds.

Advocate wrote:

If the nation had to sue for the unfulfilled promises within 90 days,how many cases could there be.I thought a President should have thick skin to critism and other comments.There should be a well designed system to rebut various accusations inorder to inform the public about the truth.That is what leadearship is all about.Are people expected or forced to be quite even if they suspect something has gone wrong within the Executive.Dictatorships start this way.

3 comments

  • Excellent article on this disturbing development.

    You may also be curious to know that we published an article on this a few days ago:

    http://zambiareports.com/2012/05/19/sata-seeks-millions-from-opponents-in-defamation-suits/

    There is also the lawsuit from Sata against HOT FM, as well as a lawsuit from the Minister of Defense against Daily Nation. He is suing over a story about the no-bid renovation contract handed out to a company owned by the Minister of Finance. What is interesting is that the story is actually TRUE, and the government has not denied the no-bid contract.

  • Jack Daniels

    So… the president is going around suing anyone who writes an article about him? What is this? Is it message to all, who dare write anything remotly true about him? Is this intimidation or what? Freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. “Speech” is not limited to public speaking and is generally taken to include other forms of expression. Or maybe this is not allowed or exercised in Zambia?

    Please explain why you are on a suing binge!!

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