Government wants the High Court to order People’s Party (PP) acting president Uladi Mussa to pay miner Michael Saner about K7 billion for allegedly ignoring advice to renew the miner’s licence.
But Mussa has accused government of playing politics on the matter, wondering how he can be liable for a decision he made as a Cabinet minister.
According to court documents, Saner was issued a three-year renewable licence number EPL NO 086/200 to carry out a mining activity at Kangankunde in Balaka.
The licence’s expiry date was May 13 2003 and on November 25 2002, Saner submitted an application to Mussa, who was then Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs, for renewal.
This did not happen and he sued government for the action. The High Court ordered government to pay him $100 million (about K6.9 billion) which included cost of action and interest.
But Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale says Mussa should pay the money because he was reckless in the manner he handled the issue.
“The defendant [Uladi], acting with impunity, ignored legal advice by my office and the office of a private law practice contracted by my office informing him that he could not refuse to renew the licence without following due process and without citing a valid or justifiable reason.
“[His] decision not to renew the licence was in breach of his fiduciary duties under Section 12(ii) of the Constitution to only exercise his power to the extent of his lawful authority,” wrote Kaphale in his affidavit dated May 11 2016.
He said Mussa as a public officer administering the Mines and Minerals Act, had a duty to accord all licence holders lawful and procedurally fair administrative action that was justifiable in relation to reasons given where their rights, freedom and legitimate expectations or interests were affected or threatened.
Kaphale said Uladi knew or ought to have known that the renewal of the exclusive prospective licence could have led, on further exploration, to the granting of a mining licence.
He said the then minister refused to renew Saner’s exclusive prospective licence and, in breach of his express statutory duty, gave him no reasons for the refusal and this did not even accord him a hearing contrary to the dictates of Section 43 of the Constitution and Section 50 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
But Uladi said yesterday Saner did not do anything during the two years after he was given a licence and it would have been unfair to renew it.
Said Uladi: “I made that decision as Uladi, a minister, not in my personal capacity. I wonder why I have to be made personally liable. Again, why should government bring out something that happened in 2003? I know this is politics because they have always wanted to find ways of destroying me.” n