15 February 2013

Zambia: Amsterdam Appeal Tossed Out

THE Lusaka High Court has thrown out four applications by Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer resident in the United Kingdom, which among others, were seeking the court to stay defamation proceedings against him by President Michael Sata until he left office or waives his immunity.

High Court Registrar for Subordinates Courts Charles Kafunda said in his ruling on Wednesday that he found no basis of staying the proceedings.

This is in a matter in which Mr Sata sued Mr Amsterdam and the Daily Nation Newspaper proprietor Richard Sakala for defamation of character but Mr Amsterdam had raised four summons against the legal suit.

Mr Amsterdam had in his four bids asked the court to stay the proceedings until Mr Sata left office or that Mr Sata waives his immunity claiming as things were, he would be disadvantaged because Mr Sata enjoyed immunity.

He also wanted the court to stay the proceedings pending reversal of the order by the Ministry of Home Affairs barring him from entering Zambia so that he could represent himself in the matter.

He wanted the court to stay proceedings pending an application for security costs as well as setting aside Mr Sata's Writ of summons and Statement of claim, for irregularity.

But Mr Kafunda said the court had no basis to stay the proceedings because the right to immunity by the President was a privilege bestowed on his office by the dictates of public interest which demanded that the office of the President be immune from suit.

"In Zambia the immunity of a President is granted by the Constitution itself and hence cannot be held to be discriminatory as it is constitutional.

On the barring of Amsterdam from entering Zambia which he claimed denied him the right to the protection of the law as he cannot personally attend litigation, Mr Kafunda said the issue was administrative in nature to which the court had no jurisdiction.

He said the fact that since Amsterdam was represented by counsel he would not be prejudiced in litigating the matter.

On the summons to stay proceedings pending an application for security costs, Mr Kafunda said the order did not bear any relationship with the notion of legal resident suggested by Amsterdam or the question of immunity.

As for the matter of setting aside Writ of summons, he said he was satisfied that the words complained of by Mr Sata have been clearly set out in the pleadings.

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