Lusaka High Court judge Mwila Chitabo has dismissed Chirundu UPND member of parliament Douglas Syakalima’s petition in which he wanted a declaration that certain sections of the National Dialogue Act were in violation of his rights and freedoms.
Judge Chitabo observed that Syakalima failed to discharge his burden of proof, which was required in a petition, and hence dismissed the application for lack of merit.
In his petition, Syakalima was seeking a declaration and order that provisions of section 3(h), 5, 6(2), 12, 17(1)(a) and (b) and 18 (1)(a) of the National Dialogue (Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties) Act No 1 of 2019 are in violation of his rights and freedoms in terms of Articles 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23 of the Constitution, among other reliefs.
However, the Attorney General’s chambers urged the court to dismiss Syakalima’s petition, saying there was no merit in it.
And in his judgement on Monday, justice Chitabo said although Syakalima told the court that he participated in the debate of the bill, his arguments opposing the Act could not hold.
“The petitioner has not demonstrated how his participation in the debate of the bill which he vehemently opposed, but the bill carried the day and was enacted into law was an affront to democracy and constitutionalism. There is no challenge to the legislative process of the enactment of the Act. It follows, there is no force in the complaint,” justice Chitabo said.
He said in exercising one’s freedom, one also had to recognise the rights of others.
“In this case the right of the electorate by the petitioner as member of parliament for Chirundu to represent them at the forum as required by law. There is no evidence that the electorate had authorised their representative to keep away from the forum,” he said.
Judge Chitabo said Syakalima had not demonstrated how he had been discriminated or treated less favourably as compared to other persons.
He added that, “In my view, it is the duty of government in a democratic country to provide opportunity to the citizenry, the peoples’ representatives, various stakeholders and representatives of all organs of the state to participate in the moulding and crafting of the constitution. That is in the public interest,” judge Chitabo said.
“To that extent, the various sections of the act complained of have not been shown by the petitioner that they are not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. They also serve the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of others like those of the petitioner’s constituency.”
Judge Chitabo concluded that Syakalima had failed to discharge his onus of proof, which was required in a petition.
He ordered each party to bear own costs.
Judge Chitabo further said that an appeal from a decision touching on the bill of rights part III of the Constitution lied to the Supreme Court.
“Leave to appeal is hereby granted,” ruled Judge Chitabo.