Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
NATIONAL Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA), a coalition of opposition political parties, has been slapped with a $1 million lawsuit for damaging and looting property from business entities during violent demonstrations that rocked Harare’s Central Business District (CBD) in August last year.
MDC-T, Zimbabwe People First and ZAPU are part of NERA. Citizens Against Violence and Anarchy Trust (CAVAAT), through its lawyers Zigomo Legal Practitioners, yesterday filed the claim at the High Court on behalf of scores of businesspeople who lost property in the skirmishes that erupted at the height of NERA demonstrations.
CAVAAT is a local organisation that promotes peace and business in the country. The trust issued summons after getting the High Court nod permitting it to sue on behalf of the violence victims. The victims reported to CAVAAT offices and reported their losses. CAVAAT is claiming $1 million plus interest calculated at the rate of five percent per annum from the date of issuance of summons to the date of payment in full.
The trust also seeks an order for costs against NERA. On August 26 last year, NERA, a coalition group comprising 13 fringe opposition political parties, organised a demonstration to lobby for electoral reforms.
They demonstrated against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The participants went on a rampage, looting goods from shops, burning wares at flea markets, setting ablaze vehicles and other properties. 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, CAVAAT argued, NERA being the convenor, had a duty to ensure peace during the demonstration. “The defendant, in breach of its said legal duty, failed to put in place adequate safeguard to ensure that its demonstration was peaceful and that no property belonging to private citizens was destroyed.
“Failure to put adequate safeguard measures led to the outbreak of violence during the demonstration, which caused damage and or loss of property of individuals who were not part of the demonstration,” reads the plaintiff’s declaration. Further, CAVAAT argues, NERA failed to follow the route, which it had identified in the notice for the demonstration that had been sent to the regulating authority.
To that end, violence broke out in some routes where there were no police details and other security measures. “The total value of property belonging to private citizens, which was damaged and or lost during the demonstration is the aggregate sum of $1 000 000,” reads the declaration.
CAVAAT argued that NERA ought to have foreseen the danger associated with a violent demonstration. Failure to put in place adequate security measures, CAVAAT argued, amounted to a breach of duty of care to third parties.
NERA is yet to respond to the million dollar claim.