/ 29 November 2006

Zambia overturns police ban on rallies

The Zambian government has overturned a police ban on planned nationwide rallies by the main opposition party, the country’s solicitor general said on Wednesday.

Sunday Nkonde said the police had no powers to stop the rallies due to be addressed by Patriotic Party leader Michael Sata, who lost to President Levy Mwanawasa in recent elections.

”Kindly note that no legal advice was sought before the decision to deny holding public rallies was made, and made in error. I agree that the decision [should be] quashed,” Nkonde said in his letter to the police.

Mwanawasa was comfortably re-elected in the September polls, which were given a general thumbs up by international observers despite Sata’s claims that they were rigged.

Sata responded to the ban on his rallies by accusing the authorities of ”inciting the people by denying us a permit to hold these meetings”.

Sata had petitioned the High Court to grant him permission to hold the rallies, saying the police had no powers to deny him his constitutional rights.

The opposition also sued the government of President Mwanawasa, saying the police acted with the blessings of the government.

”There is, therefore, no need to litigate and increase costs at the expense of tax-payers,” Nkonde said.

Sata had informed the police that he wanted to hold nationwide rallies to thank voters who supported him in the September general elections, while at the same time launch his presidential campaign, which is due only in 2011. — Sapa-AFP