The Constitutional Court has strongly condemned all forms of electoral violence in the country and has further urged the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) utilise its powers under the law to punish perpetrators.
Constitutional Court judge Martin Musaluke noted that ECZ has wide powers under the law to punish perpetrators of electoral violence which include, but not limited to, disqualifying a political party in breach of the Electoral Code of Conduct from taking part in an election.
He said this, Wednesday, when he upheld the Lusaka High Court’s decision to declare UPND’s Romeo Kang’ombe as duly elected member of parliament for Sesheke constituency.
Judge Musaluke declared Kang’ombe duly elected after dismissing the two grounds of appeal advanced by PF losing candidate Dean Masule, for lack of merit.
In this matter, Masule appealed to the Constitutional Court against the High Court’s decision to declare Kang’ombe as the duly elected member of parliament for Sesheke.
In May last year, High Court judge Gertrude Chawatama declared Kang’ombe as duly elected Sesheke member of parliament, saying the will of the people prevailed.
But Masule, being dissatisfied with the judgment, filed a notice and memorandum of appeal in the Constitutional Court against the High Court’s decision.
In his memorandum of appeal, Masule filed two grounds, arguing that the High Court judge erred in law when she held that the provisions of section 97 (2) (b) of the Electoral Process Act number 35 of 2016 exclusively governed the activities of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
He further stated that judge Chawatama erred in law when she held that the case of Josephat Mlewa verses Eric Wightman (1995-1997) ZR171 has restrictive application in the current electoral law.
But delivering a judgment on behalf of other Constitutional Court judges, yesterday, judge Musaluke dismissed the two grounds of appeal for lacking substance.
He also sustained the High Court’s decision and declared Kang’ombe duly elected member of parliament for Sesheke.
“In conclusion, the two grounds of appeal advanced by the appellant have failed and therefore the entire appeal fails. Accordingly, we sustain the decision of the lower court and declare that the respondent, Mr Romeo Kang’ombe, was duly elected as member of parliament for Sesheke constituency,” judge Musaluke said.
The court, however, frowned upon and strongly condemned all forms of electoral violence.
Justice Musaluke said electoral violence diminishes the national values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, adding that free and fair elections were a cornerstone of every democratic State.
“We wish to restate that we frown upon and strongly condemn all forms of electoral violence. Elections are a civilised way of participation of citizens in the governance of the country. Electoral violence diminishes the national values and principles enshrined in Article 8 of the Constitution. Therefore, free and fair elections are a cornerstone of every democratic State that espouses its values,” he said.
Judge Musaluke strongly urged the Electoral Commission of Zambia to take necessary steps to curb the warring culture of electoral violence in the country.
“We take judicial notice that ECZ has wide powers under the Law to punish perpetrators of electoral violence which include, but not limited to, disqualification of a political party in breach of the electoral code of conduct from taking part in an election. It’s time that such powers are invoked so as to preserve life, property, democratic values and principles,” he said.
Justice Musaluke said a copy of the judgement will be sent to ECZ for action.
He ordered that each party bears its own costs in the appeal.
Commenting on the judgment, Kang’ombe thanked his lawyer Mulambo Haimbe for the battle he fought to win the case.
He also thanked the UPND leadership and his family.
“He who petitions you doesn’t love you. And had it not been for God to give me the strength as well as the people around me, I would have failed in my duties along the way. But what I can say is, from today going forward, I will be firing from all pistols, I was firing on a single pistol because of this case. And going forward, you will see the real Romeo Kangombe. I will work willfuly, accordingly and I will show the responsibility of a member of parliament for the people of Sesheke, which even during the petition, I have fulfilled,” Kang’ombe said.
He wished Masule well and urged his people in Sesheke to forgive him.
“I can only wish Dean Masule well. I don’t bear any grudge. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have a spine…If it were me, I wouldn’t have petitioned but I forgive him. And I want the people of Sesheke to forgive Masule. Whatever heartbreaks they have had along the way, it’s high time we bury them in the past and forge ahead,” said Kang’ombe.