CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel says he has already drafted a petition waiting to challenge Edgar Lungu’s nomination as 2021 Presidential candidate, should the Patriotic Front go ahead to field him.
And Sangwa has insisted that he has no political ambitions, but remains interested in protecting and defending the Republican Constitution.
Meanwhile, Sangwa says if the PF insists that Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 represents the will of the people, they should call for a referendum to test its popularity.
Sangwa was reacting to Malambo PF member of parliament Makebi Zulu, who charged that the renowned lawyer was being mischievous in saying that President Lungu was a lame duck President and was not the right person to advocate for a constitution amendment.
Zulu also said it was clear that Sangwa planned to challenge President Lungu’s nomination in court.
In response, Sangwa said it was no longer a secret that “President Lungu doesn’t qualify” adding that he had already drafted a petition which was sitting on his laptop awaiting to be filed at the right time.
“I have read the story from Zulu. I want to start by applauding him for confirming what we have always suspected: that Bill 10 is not about empowering women, the disabled, the youth or improving the economy or sorting out chiefs’ wrangles as we have been made to believe. The intention of Bill 10 is clearly to repeal Article 52 so that people do not challenge President Lungu’s eligibility to stand in 2021. He has just confirmed that and I hope you quoted him correctly. He has said it clearly. Now, maybe this statement will clear it. It is not a secret, I don’t believe President Lungu qualifies to stand for the election in 2021. I can confirm to Honourable Makebi Zulu that I already have a petition on my laptop pursuant to Article 52, ready to file in the Constitutional Court the day President Lungu will file in his nomination papers! It is not secret, God-willing I am alive next year, that is what I intend to do. I already have a draft of the petition on my laptop, I can confirm to you. So, it is not a secret,” Sangwa said in an exclusive interview with News Diggers!
“Now, he has just confirmed that if Bill 10 passes, I will not be able to challenge that. He has confirmed that their biggest interest is Article 52, which they want to remove. That article empowers citizens to challenge the eligibility of any person to stand for an elective office, including that of President. I am confirming that, God-willing, I am still breathing, the day when President Lungu files his nomination papers, I will file in that petition. My point is that if they truly believe that President Lungu qualifies to stand in 2021, then they should remove Bill 10 so that that issue is properly mitigated before the Constitutional Court. If you believe you qualify, then why are you trying to remove the law, which allows me to test your qualification?”
He reiterated that the ConCourt did not rule that President Lungu was eligible to stand for the 2021 general elections.
“I know that he (Zulu) claims that the Constitutional Court declared that President Lungu qualifies. Ask him to tell you the page where in the judgement the Court said he qualifies? There is no such a clause, there is no such a pronouncement. When you go to court for interpretation of the Constitution, it is simply to seek clarification from the courts; the Court is not being invited to declare the rights of parties. So, my position is that the Constitutional Court never declared President Lungu eligible,” he insisted.
“First of all, they could not have done that because he was not before court. The Court can never declare the rights, the existence of a right or non-existence of a right of a person that is not before the court. So, how could they have declared Lungu eligible when Lungu never moved [to] the Court? But even if, let us assume they did, nothing stops me from going back to the Constitutional Court and telling them that if, indeed, you declared him eligible, you were wrong, can you revisit your decision and I will give reasons why they should revisit the decisions. Nothing stops the Court, especially the Constitutional Court, to revisit its own decision and reverse itself.”
Sangwa said there was nothing new about the proposal to have a mixed member representation system.
“The next issue he talks about is that of mixed-member representation; my starting point is Zambia is not a banana republic! We have 96 years of legislative history. Let us read our history, let us respect our history. When you don’t read history, you might think you are intelligent and creating something new. We have tried before from 1959 to 1963 to have a mixed-member political system; we have such a history. That system was designed to ensure that the (Northern Rhodesian) whites, who were in the minority, still had representation in the Legislative Council. So, we have already tried those models before, they are not inventing anything,” Sangwa recalled.
“The point is that I have not heard any argument to support why the composition of the National Assembly and the manner of electing members of the National Assembly should be contained in the Act of Parliament and not in a Constitution. We don’t know which system they are advocating for so there is no way you can ask citizens to blindly endorse a system you don’t know, which you have not disclosed to them. Even if it is stipulated in the Act of Parliament, where is that Act of Parliament? If you want to put it in that Act of Parliament, doesn’t common sense dictate that you publish the Act of Parliament as well so that people can see what system you are suggesting? All those issues he is talking about addressing the youths, addressing the women, addressing the disabled…where is he getting that information from?””
And Sangwa insisted he had no political ambitions.
“He (Zulu) ends up saying, ‘Sangwa is a politician.’ I don’t have political ambitions, I have never been a politician in my life. I have never been a member of any political party. I have only held a card of one political party, that is UNIP, and that was so that I can get on UBZ bus and buy groceries in the market. They used to say, ‘show us your youth card before you enter the bus, before you enter a market.’ All the women were part of the women’s league of UNIP. All the youths were part of the UNIP youth league.’ So I have only held one card for UNIP and that was mandatory, it’s not like I had a choice. Otherwise, I never been a politician! My only interest is to protect the Constitution, that is all. I take the oath that I have taken to protect the Constitution very seriously.
So, he makes a remark to say, ‘that is not the way we practice law’ I have seen a paragraph where he says, ‘he is working so that he goes and petition but that is not the way we practice law,’ my response to that is that protection of the Constitution requires vigilance. It is better to prevent a wrong from happening than allowing a wrong to happen and then seek to reverse it. Any prudent lawyer would do exactly what I am prepared to do. Yes, I have a draft petition, I can confirm that. I stand by my position that President Lungu is a lame duck President and he is not the right President to advocate for the amendment of the Constitution!”
Meanwhile, Sangwa challenged the PF government to call for a referendum if they truly want Bill 10 enacted.
“If they believe that Bill 10 is popular and is in the interest of the people, there is a very simple way of testing that: let them put a referendum, simple! We settle the debate. Let’s see the popularity of Bill 10. That is the only way we resolve these issues,” said Sangwa.