The Lusaka High Court has halted UPND presidential petition proceedings after the fracas between police and cadres on Thursday.
In a letter dated December 16, 2016, Judge Mwila Chitabo stated that the atmosphere was not conducive to proceed with the petition.
“The mob practically invaded the court grounds which houses the Supreme Court building too. Cadres could be seen running in the corridors of the judge’s chambers. The police had a tough time to contain the situation. The business of the court was interrupted and safety of the members of staff and judges was put at great risk. This conduct cannot be tolerated. The physical violence demonstrated by the concerned parties could be inferred or intended to create fear, panic and intimidate the courts. The atmosphere is therefore presently not conducive to proceed with the petition,” Judge Chitabo stated.
He suspended proceedings indefinitely.
“I therefore directed that the proceedings will be on halt until such a time as to be communicated to the parties. A situation cannot be allowed where litigants or their supporters should be at large interrupting court operations causing havoc and damaging property. The ruling which was expected to be delivered on 22nd December, 2016 at 10 hours will therefore not be delivered, it will be posted to the parties advocates when it is demonstrated that the party cadres and their supporters are controllable by their leaders,” stated Judge Chitabo.
“Both domestic and international laws require a judge adjudicates on disputes independently without any undue influence or other factors. These are some of the cornerstones of the independence of a judge.”
On Thursday, police clashed with UPND cadres who had gone to show solidarity to party leader Hakainde Hichilema.
45 UPND supporters were arrested; nine of whom are female and they were charged with riotous behaviour, malicious damage to property and assaulting police officers on duty.