THE Patriotic Front and its members have continued mourning the demise of Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019. In the latest lamentations by the Minister of Justice, the Kabwata Constituency lawmaker is now suggesting that Article 52 (6) in the Republication Constitution is “Very dangerous and extremely toxic” because it will give an advantage to the opposition by way of causing a cancellation of elections if they notice imminent defeat.
“In our Constitution, there is Article 52 sub article (6), very dangerous, extremely toxic in that Constitution. It states that if people have filed in their nominations, Presidential candidates, if in the middle of campaigns, one who filed in their nomination dies, the whole election is canceled. If one resigns, the whole election is canceled. Now tell me, in a country where we have people that are treacherous, are you sure if they see that article and they see that they are losing, can’t they resign?” wonders Lubinda.
To be clear, here is what the law that the Justice minister is referring to says:
52(6): “Where a candidate dies, resigns or becomes disqualified
in accordance with Article 70, 100 or 153 or
a court disqualifies a candidate for corruption or malpractice,
after the close of nominations and before the election date,
the Electoral Commission shall cancel the election and
require the filing of fresh nominations by eligible candidates and
elections shall be held within thirty days of the filing of the fresh nominations.”
Now, we don’t see what problem Honourable Lubinda has with that provision of the law. In our understanding, what the law is saying here is simply that if President Lungu files his nomination and ECZ closes its nomination process pending election date, and Mr John Sangwa wins a petition against Mr Lungu’s eligibility in court, then the election date is suspended to allow the Patriotic Front identify another candidate and still take part in the election. This law also provides time for the ECZ to change the ballot papers and include a new candidate for the PF. What is wrong with this law?
Is Minister Lubinda saying if (God forbid) Mr Lungu meets his Creator shortly after the nomination day, then the elections should go ahead without the PF having a presidential candidate? Is that what he wants or he is just arguing for the sake of making noise, without understanding what he is challenging? Why should a political party be punished if its candidate fails to make it to the election date?
This is a good provision for the PF. The only reason Minister Lubinda is describing it as “very dangerous and extremely toxic” is because it gives the same privilege to the UPND and other opposition political parties. That is why he is saying the UPND will be deliberately causing the cancellation of elections if they see that they are losing. Lubinda would prefer that if (God forbid) the UPND candidate died, the elections should carry on without the opposition party being given an opportunity to field another candidate.
But let’s assume that a candidate has taken a bribe and decides to resign, why should the party suffer for one individual’s selfishness? Imagine a candidate resigns after being diagnosed with an illness that may not enable them to execute the functions of the office of President, would it be fair for that party to be prohibited from taking part in the presidential elections through another candidate?
This is the problem that we have with the Patriotic Front. They are scrutinizing the Constitution while planning to strike out all provisions that seem to give a level playing field to the opposition. But this is wrong because the law is supposed to be blind, it is not supposed to look at who is in power and who is in the opposition. Surely, what is wrong with that provision that the Justice Minister is complaining about?
And we note that the Minister is also lying when he says the opposition will be causing the cancellation of elections whenever they realise that they are losing. The law says this can only happen if the death or nullification of nomination happens after the nomination day, but before the election date. So how do you realise that you are losing before people even go to the polls? This is misinformation that the minister is feeding our population.
In fact, even assuming that what Honourable Lubinda is hallucinating about does happen and the opposition start abusing the law, what stops the PF or any aggrieved individual from going to court to seek intervention? That’s why the courts of law are there. You can go and tell the court that “this resignation is a fraud and they should not be allowed to contest”. So we don’t understand why the defeat of Bill 10 is giving the Patriotic Front all these sleepless nights.
A Constitution is drafted by human beings, and these humans try to imagine every thinkable scenario that may occur and they try to provide a solution. But no human is God who can see everything that will happen. So, it is important to allow the Constitution to take effect so that we see what will happen. This law that Minister Lubinda is fighting is good for PF more than anyone else under the circumstances.