There is a trend by our courts of granting all sorts of ex parte orders to those in power, their agents and associates and refusing to extend the same to their opponents.
Our courts should frown on granting ex parte injunctions. There must be compelling need. Judiciary practice directions have consistently discouraged such one-sided orders. Our judges should have some introspection on this display of double standards, partiality.
The net impact of this injunction is to restrain freedom of expression and ultimately an affront to good governance, the rule of law and democracy. How can citizens hold the rulers of this country accountable with such restraints on the freedom of expression?
And moreover, the tort of malicious falsehood is essentially a claim of defamation on a corporate entity worried for its profit making venture. What profitable business does the Zambia Revenue Authority conduct that would be injured by a case of malicious falsehood? None.
The Zambia Revenue Authority is a public institution with unfettered access to public and private media alike – ZNBC television and radio, the Times of Zambia, the Zambia Daily Mail, the Daily Nation. All they need to do is issue the correct message if they thought that the UPP, a duly registered political party in a multiparty dispensation, had issued a false and malicious statement that has brought the Zambia Revenue Authority to be held in contempt and ridicule by right thinking Zambians. This is a question that requires strictest proof. The Zambia Revenue Authority does not need the assistance of an injunction to gag the UPP and ultimately other members of the public from commenting on its alleged corruption because they are in public interest.
In fact, the UPP should use other mouthpieces to voice out their concerns as everyone else has not restrained from discussing the issue of corruption at the Zambia Revenue Authority.
This ex parte injunction amounts to censorship.
How does the court know that what the UPP is alleging is not true? Who accepts allegations of wrong doing at first instance in this country or world? Just next door in Malawi, a newspaper group was closed for alleging corruption in a maize deal with Zambia. Investigations by a parliamentary committee later proved and revealed that the newspaper was right. Frederick Chiluba got people arrested for revealing that he had a love affair with Regina Mwanza, a married woman. But later, this was proved to be true and the two got married.
Freedom of expression will be reduced to nothing in this country if such arbitrary ex parte injunctions are allowed to continue being granted to protect those in power from being made accountable.
Every person has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to injunct this is to restrict the freedom of expression; but if he utters what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.
Clearly, this type of ex parte injunction is a particularly oppressive form of censorship because it prevents the restricted issues from being heard at all. This is a very serious threat on freedom of expression and the least tolerable infringement on our rights.
What will happen to our freedom of speech if the only time we are allowed to continue speaking is when the judges of the High Court are sure that what we are going to say offends no one?