Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter—
BUSINESS entities and individuals who lost property in violent demonstrations that rocked Harare’s central business district on August 26 last year, can sue the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) for damages, the High Court has ruled.
Justice Owen Tagu yesterday granted an application by a group of traders under the banner “Citizens Against Violence and Anarchy Trust” (CAVAAT) to institute a class action on behalf of victims of the skirmishes.
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The court allowed CAVAAT to go ahead with the lawsuit. “It is declared that leave be and is hereby granted to applicant in terms of the Class Action to bring a class action against respondent,” ruled Justice Tagu.
CAVAAT intends to institute a class action on behalf of several affected people who fell victim to the violence, emanating from a demonstration organised by NERA. NERA, a coalition group comprising 13 fringe opposition political parties, organised a demonstration to lobby for electoral reforms.
The rowdy participants went on a rampage, looting goods from shops, burning wares at flee markets, setting ablaze vehicles and other properties. Although the loss is yet to be quantified, CAVAAT, led by former police assistant commissioner Faustino Mazango, resolved to sue NERA for damages in a bid to assist the affected victims recover their property.
In terms of the law, the class action cannot be instituted directly without seeking permission from the court. The founding affidavit deposed by a member of CAVAAT, Mr Elton Ziki, concedes that NERA had a right to conduct a peaceful demonstration, but it had a duty to ensure the peace during the procession.
“The respondent, as the convenor, had a duty to ensure that the demonstration was peaceful.
“It was required to put in place adequate measures to ensure that there was no violence. Even after the violence had started, it had a duty to discourage its members from participating in the violence,” reads the affidavit. CAVAAT argued that the protestors were seen throwing stones, looting, vandalising and even burning property, but the convenors did not take any action to restore order.
It is also CAVAAT’s argument that NERA failed to comply with the High Court order that allowed them to demonstrate peacefully.
“It (NERA) failed to comply in that it did not follow the times or the route specified therein and headed on a different route towards the Parliament of Zimbabwe, which triggered alarm of the regulatory authority leading to violence,” reads the affidavit.
CAVAAT argued that some citizens lost their property and businesses due to the violence and the court must hold NERA liable. “As a result of the violence that occurred during the demonstrations, ordinary citizens lost property and business. It is no longer certain whether one can conduct business in the usual manner for fear of loss or damage of property.
“It is only fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable that the respondent be held liable for the loss or damage of property suffered by ordinary citizens.” CAVAAT has since asked victims to register their loss ahead of the class action and by the time of filing of the application, 32 people had registered their complaints.
More victims were still expected to report their losses to CAVAAT. The victims, who have already registered, are mostly vendors, flea market operators and shop owners, who operate in the CBD.
Article Source: The Herald