Allow Constitutional Court to independently determine President Lungu’s eligibility

By Isaac Mwanza

Zambia’s Constitutional Court will this Friday determine the eligibility of President Lungu contesting the 2021 elections. This has seen some media houses using every available means and persons to coward the Court into determine this matter based on the biased political views some analyst may hold.

Without adding more to this debate, the Constitutional Court should be left to independently determine this matter the same way the Court did with the eligibility of serving councillors who had wished to contest mayoral elections. In fact, anyone who has carefully read that judgment on councillors will understand the opportune time for making a determination of questions of such a nature the Court is confronted with. No one who has been before this Court like me would doubt the thoroughness with which the Court determines these questions.

The simple fact and truth is that the Constitutional Court will not determine the eligibility case based on whether President Lungu held office of the President once, twice, three times, etc. The question before the Court is, whether the first time President Lungu held office should be counted as President Lungu’s term of office or not, in view of provisions of Article 106.

In short, the parties to this case do not contest the fact that President Lungu was first elected in 2015 and later in 2016. However, the contention is whether the first term that lasted less than 3 years should be counted or not counted as a term for the President.

To me, the question at this point is whether the Court will allow a situation where the Constitution must be read as a whole or it must be read selectively – picking one part to apply to the question of President Lungu and leaving another part as not applying to him. This is wher the meat is. If the Constitution is read as a whole and not selectively, we may see President Lungu being declared eligible but if the Constitution is read selectively to only pick one portion and leaving another, the President may not be eligible.

Fortunately, the only Court with competent capacity to make this determination is the Constitutional Court and not analysts who may be hired or politically biased. There is one team that feels the Court only acquires legitimacy if it rules against Edgar Lungu – that is a wrong approach to matters of law.

In view of the above, Zambians must respect the decision of the Court – whichever way the Judgment must go on December 7, 2018. I say this because, having been a petitioner before this Constitutional Court and arguing the case of councillors effectively, one must always expect the case to go either way.

It is thus unfortunate that preceding the December 7 judgment, a lot of money has gone into some media houses with a view of discrediting the Court ahead of the Judgment. They have questioned the integrity and the experience and capacity of judges – the very judges they went before so they can make a determination. We all have a duty to contribute towards protection of judicial independence and integrity of the Court by doing what we can to avoid bringing the Court into public disrepute and odium.

The Judges of the ConCourt know that they are permitted to make independent decisions. In any adversarial legal system, you don’t expect everyone to agree with the Court judgment but the Court must be brave enough to deliver its ruling without paying so much attention to sponsored persons that have been hired to discredit the Court and cast doubts on it.

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