High Court refuses to restrain Dangote from quarrying on Masaiti farmland

THE Lusaka High Court has refused to restrain Dangote Quarries (Zambia) Limited from continuing to carry out mining works or developments on the farmland and villages belonging to over 200 people in senior Chief Chiwala’s chiefdom of Masaiti District.

High Court judge Charles Chanda dismissed an application for an injunction by 224 plaintiffs, noting that this was not a proper case in which an injunction could be granted.

He added that the matter is all about compensation which can adequately be atoned for by an award of damages.
In this matter, 224 subjects and landholders under senior Chief Chiwala’s Chiefdom of Copperbelt Province’s Masaiti District have sued Dangote Quarries (Zambia) Limited, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), Majaliwa Muwaya (sued in his capacity as senior Chief Chiwala), seeking a declaration that Dangote Quarries has failed to address or mitigate the adverse social and economic impacts of their cement project on the plaintiffs.

Jeff Murebwa and 223 others, who commenced the action in 2013, also want, among other claims, an order directing that Dangote Quarries’ operations be shut down until adequate compensation has been paid in full to all plaintiffs, and damages for their loss of use of land.

Last year, the plaintiffs applied for an order of injunction in the Lusaka High Court to restrain Dangote Quarries (Zambia) Limited from continuing to carry out any mining works or developments on their farmland and villages.

They further wanted the defendants to be restrained from interfering with their rights and ownership of their properties and assets until the determination of the matter or until further order.

But Dangote Quarries opposed the injunction application, arguing that restraining it from carrying out its mining operations would not, in any way, assist the plaintiffs whose claim was for payment of substantial and adequate compensation as well as damages for loss of use of land.

It submitted that it would instead be detrimental to it as it stands to lose colossal amounts of money from any halting of its mining operations with the result that they would be unable to pay the plaintiffs in the unlikely event of the court finding that the compensation was inadequate.

And in a ruling delivered in chambers on February 14, justice Chanda stated that this was not a proper case in which an injunction could be granted and further dismissed the plaintiffs’ application for an order of injunction.

Judge Chanda noted that as the matter was partly heard, there was a real likelihood of him prejudging at this stage some of the issues already raised through the evidence if he were to reveal his mind and pronounce himself as to whether the plaintiffs had satisfied the guidelines for the grant of injunction.

“It is, however, safe for me to state that one of the guiding principles in the granting of injunction is whether or not the applicant would suffer irreparable injury which cannot be adequately atoned for by an award of damages, mere inconvenience is not enough. This case is all about compensation and such compensation can adequately be atoned for by an award of damages,” he stated.

Judge Chanda also dismissed the plaintiffs’ application for leave to amend the re-amended statement of claim.

He observed that while the plaintiffs wished to amend the re-amended statement of claim, their intention really was to join a party to the proceedings by the name of Dangote Industries [Zambia] Limited as the forth defendant.

Judge Chanda added that “strangely, there was no such application to join the intended forth defendant but the plaintiffs were indirectly applying for such joinder through the guise of an application to amend the re-amended statement of claim”.

He stated that it was his considered view that the proper application ought to have been one of joinder of a party as opposed to an application to amend the re-amended statement of claim.
Judge Chanda said the amendment would have been proper if it was merely correcting the name of the party already sued.

Meanwhile, the judge granted the plaintiffs an application to join five other people to the proceedings as plaintiffs and ordered that they would be numbered accordingly following the misjoinder of six others from the proceedings.

Judge Chanda further ordered that trial dates of April 20-24 remain the same in the event that the parties failed to amicably resolve the matter.

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