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HRDC sued for K500 million

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AMONG RESPONDENTS IN THE CASE—Mayaya

Some 26 people have dragged Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to court for damages to property worth K545,802 450 during the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations which the organisation held on June 20 2019 and July 4 and 5 2019.

Summons which The Daily Times has seen, dated August 16 2019 and August 22 2019, say, as a result of HRDC’s failure to ensure that the demonstrations were peaceful, the 26 claimants had their property and business merchandise damaged or looted by demonstrators.

The respondents in the case are HDRC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo, his deputy Gift Trapence, Billy Mayaya, Masauko Thawe, Madalitso Banda, Thoko Mapemba and Beatrice Moyo, with the eighth defendant being HRDC.

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Among the people who have lodged a complaint are Joe Thomas Nyirongo (first clamant) who claims to have lost property worth K105 million.

The property includes Aunt Tine Lodge and Stone House Lodge. Dennis Moyo also claims in the summons that property worth K150 million was damaged at his house during the demonstrations.

“Wherefore the claimants claim damages of loss of property for the claimants amounting to K545,802,450,’’ reads the summons signed by Gondwe and Attorneys, legal practitioners of the claimants.

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An initial direction of the case from the Registrar of the High Court document, which The Daily Times has seen, indicates that the case has been assigned to Justice Healey Potani.

“Within seven days from the closure of statements of the case, the proceeding shall proceed to mandatory mediation and all parties to this action shall lodge statements as provided for by order 13 rule of the Courts (High Court) (Civil Procedure) Rules,” the court document reads.

HRDC lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa said they had not been served with the summons.

“We are going to comment when my client is served with the summons,” he said.

The High Court has since granted Malawi Revenue Authority, National Oil Company of Malawi and Airport Development Limited an injunction stopping HRDC from holding the planned demonstrations on the actual premises of the three organisations.

HRDC wants the next round of demonstrations, scheduled for August 26 to 30 2019, to take place at airports and border posts.

After the recent demonstrations in Lilongwe, Mtambo said Malawi Police Service should pay for damages incurred during the protests, arguing that people damaged property because the police perpetuated the situation by firing teargas canisters to disperse them.

HRDC further says no looting took place in its designated routes and distanced the group from the looters.

Recently, Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Minister, Mark Botomani, issued a press release saying HRDC should bear the cost of the damage caused during the demonstrations which started in June 2019.

Other human rights activists say the government set a precedent by paying K3 billion to Mulli companies for the damages suffered in protests which took place on July 20 2011.

In Karonga, protesters ransacked offices for Northern Region Water Board, district council, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Forestry and a service station shop.

In Mzuzu, 231 bicycles were stolen from Mzuzu ADD offices, 55 of them were eventually recovered, and 68 suspects were arrested in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Rumphi.

Before the last round of protests, police admitted that they did not have capacity to deal with the demonstrators.

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