The petitioners and the state in President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility case have argued that the Head of State’s first term in office was inherited and should not be counted.
But the Law Association of Zambia has charged that the behaviour of the applicants violates the Constitution because their objective is to contest elections in order to form government and not serving another party’s interests.
This is the matter in which Daniel Pule of Christian Democratic Party, Zambia Republican Party leader Wright Musoma, Peter Chanda of the New Congress Party and Citizen Democratic Party leader Robert Mwanza petitioned the Constitutional Court over the eligibility of President Lungu.
When the matter came up for oral submissions before a panel of seven Constitional Court judges today, the applicants’ lawyers Bonaventure Mutale, Milingo Lungu and the Attorney General Likando Kalaluka insisted that President Lungu was eligible to contest for the 2021 elections if he desired.
The applicant’s lawyers argued President Lungu’s inherited term which ran from January 2015 to September 2016, should be treated in accordance with the current amended Constitution.
They argued that President Lungu’s inherited term should not count because he did not ascend to power in the circumstances prescribed in article 106 (5) of the amended constitution.
They further argued that there was no way President Lungu could have ascended to power under those circumstances because the rules in article 106 were not in existence when he ascended to power in January, 2015.
“The issue before court is whether the inherited term should be treated in accordance with the new regime or old regime. Our submission is that it should be treated in accordance with the new regime. In the new regime any term less than three years is not considered as a full term for purpose of barring an aspiring presidential candidate. The task before this court is to evince the intention of Parliament and give effect to it. An inherited term is an inherited term and under the new regime it does not count as a bar to eligibility,” they said.
Attorney General Likando Kalaluka reiterated that President Lungu was eligible to contest in 2021.
He noted that the matter had generated a lot of public debate and it was expected that the court would handle the matter expeditiously and fairly.
“This matter was filed a year ago and if the court decides to postpone its hearing such an intention will keep the country in suspense until 60 days before the 2021 presidential elections. I urge the court not to turn a blind eye to such suspenses,” Kalaluka said.
He urged the court to ensure that there was no unjust situation when making the ruling.
Kalaluka argued that it was unjust that only President Lungu was secluded from the provisions of the Constitution relating to his tenure of office.
He said article 106(6) which excluded President Lungu amounts to descrimnation as there was no objective and reasonable criteria as to why only him should be excluded.
But the Law Association of Zambia and the UPND maintained that President Lungu was not eligible to contest in 2021.
LAZ Lawyer John Sangwa wondered why the applicants had focused on proving President Lungu’s eligibility instead of trying to form government.
He remarked that since the applicants had their own political parties, they should focus on contesting elections instead of taking interest in another party.
“The applicants claim to say that we are acting in the public interest. The custodian of public interest is the Attorney General not every Jim and Jack. That’s the role of the Attorney General. The Constitution as amended addresses the behaviour of political parties. They should be talking about contesting of elections not the interests of another political party. Even the very behaviour of the applicants violates the Constitution. How is this application constant with their objective? Their objective is supposed to be contesting the elections in order to form government and not for another political party to form government,” said Sangwa.
And Sangwa asked the court to dismiss the originating summons on account that they lacked merit.
The matter has been adjourned to May 8 for continued hearing.