Fourteen (14) National Registration Bureau (NRB) workers arrested for convening a meeting in Mzuzu last September have dragged Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Grace Chiumia to court, demanding damages for the arrest.
In Civil Cause number 5 of 2018, filed at High Court Mzuzu Registry on January 9 2018, the workers demand damages for false imprisonment, defamation, assault, inconvenience and transport expenses. They also want Chiumia to pay the costs.
In the case, Chiumia, then Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, is alleged to have ordered police to arrest NRB officials on September 17 2017 as they convened at Shoprite where they were discussing “personal and work related issues”.
The NRB workers were released on police bail after 28 hours in the cell following pressure from fellow workers and the civil society. They were charged with unlawful assembly but they never appeared before court.
Following the arrest and their release, the 14, through their lawyers, Chram Associates, wrote Chiumia and the Attorney General (AG) on September 19 2017, demanding K140 million as compensation for false arrest.
The AG responded on October 30 2017 through senior State advocate Neverson Chisiza that the matter was being taken seriously, asking the lawyers to pend litigation so that they discuss with their clients.
However, the 14 claim the three months has elapsed without any action from Chiumia and the AG, forcing them to take legal action.
In the documents filed at the High Court, the workers claim that they suffered defamation as Chiumia, who is the first defendant, wrongly accused them of being irresponsible, that they are individuals who can cause havoc and bring confusion.
It reads: “The Claimants no longer enjoy association and social interaction with friends as before for they are labelled as confusionists. The Claimants’ reputations have been damaged as a result of the accusation and attendant arrest.
“The Claimants suffered assault through being physically dragged into a police van by police officers. The Claimants suffered inconveniences as a result of detention. The Claimants spent money while in Mzuzu and continue to spend money in their respective places of residence by way of transport expenses in order to honour police bail.”
The defence also argues that their clients suffered false imprisonment as they were in police custody on false accusations of attempting to wreak havoc and confusion and of convening an unlawful assembly.
According to the lawyers, the foregoing brought misery, mental anguish and psychological torture to the 14 NRB workers.
When contacted yesterday, Chisiza said the letter that they wrote the Claimants to pend litigation did not mean they had admitted liability, but was meant to ask the defence to give room for investigations.
“Now that they have filed the case with the court, we will engage in dialogue once we have been served with the case documents. Filing the case is the beginning of dialogue,” he said.
Efforts to talk to Chiumia, who has been sued in her personal capacity but also as a minister, proved futile as she never picked up her mobile phone on several attempts. n