Accessibility links

Zambia Opposition Party Challenges De-Registration

  • Peter Clottey

Zambia's new President Michael Sata, right, takes the oath of office on the steps of the supreme court in Lusaka (file photo).

Zambia's new President Michael Sata, right, takes the oath of office on the steps of the supreme court in Lusaka (file photo).

The spokesperson for Zambia’s main opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) said the party is legally challenging the government’s Registrar of Societies for what the party insisted was its “unlawful” de-registration.

Dora Siliya said the head of the government agency is an undisciplined government official, who is attempting to obliterate the MMD. Machinations, she said, will not work.

The government agency said, since 1993, the opposition party has failed to pay its registration fees, which amount to $75,368. It announced canceling the registration of the MMD Wednesday for non-compliance of the Societies Act. Political parties in Zambia are required to pay an annual registration fee.

Siliya said her party has up-to-date registration payment receipts.

“We’ve paid our returns of statutory obligations up to 13th January 2012. As such, we are [a] validly-registered political party. This is why we received with shock and contempt the attempt by the Registrar of Societies stating that he has de-registered the MMD for failure to pay statutory obligations,” said Siliya. “Our lawyers have taken up this matter to get an execution of stay. However, we know that this is a step to obliterate the MMD.”

The opposition party has notified the police it will embark on a demonstration Saturday to protest what the MMD says is political harassment by the government.

The MMD ruled Zambia from 1991 until it was defeated last year by former opposition leader Michael Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) party in last year’s general election. Sata was the longest serving minister under the MMD until he resigned in 2001 to form the PF party.

Siliya maintains that plans to decimate the main opposition will not work insisting that members of the MMD will not allow the party to be bullied into submission.

“We governed this country using the rule of law [and] we would be the last one not to be able to follow the law. So, we are confident that this attempt will be treated with the contempt it deserves,” said Siliya. “It’s an attempt to mutilate democracy by one person trying to [undermine] the interests of 13 million Zambians.”

Siliya said the government agency failed to notify her party before announcing its “illegally premature” decision to de-register the MMD. She insists her party has 21 days to appeal the decision following a notice of non-compliance.

“Our bone of contention is, even if the Registrar of Societies felt there [was] something we hadn’t done, at least he should have notified us. We got no notice at all,” said Siliya. “All we saw were threats in the paper and finally a copy of [a] press briefing, not even a letter to the party where this undisciplined government official got as far as saying he has, with immediate effect, declared the MMD 63 seats in parliament vacant.”

Siliya said the MMD cannot be destroyed by what she says is an overzealous government official’s assault on democracy.