Mmegi Online :: 'Lozi' separatists granted bail amid state protests
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Last Updated
Friday 17 November 2017, 19:00 pm.
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'Lozi' separatists granted bail amid state protests

LUSAKA: The 17 Barotse separatists, who are charged with malicious damage to property and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, were on October 16 granted bail by the Lusaka High Court.
By ARTHUR SIMUCHOBA
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: 'Lozi' separatists granted bail amid state protests








They are charged with tearing copies of the draft new constitution of Zambia, which they said was irrelevant in "Royal Barotseland" as the breakaway state they are agitating for is to be known. But even with the bail, many remained in custody as they struggled to meet the bail conditions: K5 million (about P12, 000) cash and two working sureties.

The men were held and are being tried in the remote Western Province town of Kaoma, about 400km west of Lusaka, and the magistrate's court had turned down their bail application following strong objections from the prosecution team.

However, in a move observers believe is a sure sign that the independence of the judiciary is still alive and well in Zambia, the Lusaka High Court granted them bail following representations by their defence counsel - and they (activists) actually ended up with a defence lawyer.

It was a surprise development because initially their case was seen as being so serious that no lawyer was willing to take it up before it went for trial, which was set for October 4-5 on account of the costs involved, and distance to the venue. 

A Lusaka law firm showed early interest, but was reported to have demanded a deposit of K34 million before it could take up the matter. No such amount was forthcoming as it is not easy to raise such an amount in a short time.

But a lawyer from a Lusaka law firm that had shown passing interest and who had previously defended some 'Barotseland' activists before drove throughout the night to be on time for the opening of the trial on October 4.He prioritised the issue of bail since his clients' offences are essentially misdemeanours for which bail is often

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available.

Though the High Court granted bail later, the conditions attached were stiff.The trial opened shortly before celebrations to mark the 12th anniversary of the accession to the Barotse throne by Lubosi Imwiko II, and before the new British High Commissioner to Zambia, John Thornton held a closed door meeting with the Lozi monarch in Mongu, the provincial capital. No details of their discussions were forthcoming. But that visit must have given the separatists some hope that their cause is probably receiving Western support and sympathy.

The 12th anniversary of the Litunga succession was marked by two days of festivities at the royal village of Limulunga. The celebrations are reported to have been on government radar, however, as the Zambia police service maintained a heavy presence throughout.

It was anticipated that the traditional Prime-Minister (Ngambela) Clement Simyinda, would make a keynote address, clearly enunciating the way forward for Barotseland. But when he finally did, it was a very brief one in which he reiterated that their call for self-determination of "the nation of Barotseland" was irreversible but that his administration was presently faced with "intractable challenges, among them financial."

The Barotse separatists, however, drew some inspiration from events in the United Kingdom (UK) where moves towards a referendum to decide whether Scotland should leave the union are underway. Their website had the story of the British newspaper The Sun of October 15 headlined, 'Scotland moves towards independence' as the lead story for days.

Those are clearly the type of moves the Lozi mavericks expect of the Zambian government. But there are strictly no signs of a softening in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government stance. The issue remained, as from the beginning, essentially "a dialogue of the deaf." (SPA)

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