An official of Zambia’s Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) has hailed a court’s decision, which overturned the recent de-registration of the main opposition party.
Chembe Nyangu, deputy national secretary of the MMD, said Tuesday’s ruling is an indication of the independence of the country’s judiciary.
“We are praising the judiciary, that [it] is independent and cannot be intimidated by the executive. Recently, [the ruling party] wanted to intimidate the judiciary by appointing or removing the senior judiciary officers and appointing their own people, who they think should go by their leash by dictating that all judicial matters, which are before the court, should be ruled in their favor,” said Nyangu.
But, supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party dismiss the accusation as without merit. They said the decision shows that the ruling party respects the rule of law.
The Chief Registrar of Societies in Zambia de-registered the opposition party for non-payment of $75,581 in annual registration fees. Political parties, NGOs and churches, are required by law to be compliant with the Societies Act, if they are to continue operating in the country.
Officials say the opposition party refused to pay the amount it owed, despite repeated reminders, while the MMD ruled the country for two decades.
The MMD condemned de-registration as an act of intimidation, which the opposition said is an affront to democracy. The MMD then challenged it in court.
Nyangu denied the Registrar of Societies contacted the opposition party about the non-payment of dues. He said national officials of the MMD were unaware of the non-payment at the district level.
“We were not aware that those branches of the party existed. They were not our branches and that is why we were not paying for them,” he said.
Nyangu said the ruling PF party doesn’t want the opposition MMD to exist following de-registration - an accusation supporters of the ruling party sharply deny as baseless. The ruling party says it strongly believes in the rule of law and that it works with other parties to strengthen the countries burgeoning democracy.
Nyangu admitted the opposition party is pleased with the independence of the judiciary in spite of its initial suspicion that the ruling might go against them.
“I am because it has come out clearly that it is not possible to de-register a former ruling party, which has more than 50 members of parliament on the pretext that two of its branches did not pay fees,” he said.
Nyangu called on the ruling party to co-exist peacefully with other oppositions parties in the country.