THE Constitutional Court has dismissed a matter in which Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo petitioned it over ECZ’s failure to publish assets declared by President Hakainde Hichilema when he filed in nominations prior to the August 12 polls.
The court said it does not condone the targeting of one candidate, adding that Tembo should have targeted or cited all the 16 presidential candidates who took part in the 2021 presidential elections, including himself and not just President Hichilema.
In this matter, Tembo who cited ECZ and the Attorney General as respondents was seeking a declaration that the commission’s failure to publish the statutory declaration of assets and liabilities for the Head of State in the August elections contravened the constitution and was illegal.
He was further seeking a declaration that ECZ discloses the assets declared by President Hichilema when filing in his nomination papers.
But in a majority judgement read by Master of the Court, Mable Njekwa Mwaba, on behalf of Constitutional Court judges; Mungeni Mulenga, Palan Mulonda, Martin Musaluke and Mathews Chisunka, the court said the declaration which Tembo was seeking concerning President Hichilema could not be granted because the conduct did not contravene Article 52 (3) of the Constitution.
The court noted that the PEP leader just targeted one person instead of all the 16 presidential candidates, including himself.
“We wish to reiterate that we do not condone the targeting of one candidate in the manner the petitioner did in this matter,” the court said.
The court implored parties commencing cases in public interest to do so in a timely manner to ensure access to effective remedies and timely addressing of identified lapses.
The court said the purpose was to furnish the voters with pertinent information about the Presidential candidates so as to enable them to make informed decisions.
The judges added that there was need for information concerning presidential candidates to be made available to members of the public who were voters.
“Having found that Article 52 (3) was not given effect, in respect of Presidential candidates, in either Electoral Process Act or the Regulations in which it was supposed to be prescribed, it follows that the petitioner has not proved that the failure by the first respondent (ECZ) to publish information of declared assets and liabilities for Presidential candidates that contested on 12th August 2021 general elections contravened the Constitution. Therefore, the declaration regarding President Hakainde Hichilema as a presidential candidate cannot be granted in this petition. The petition fails and is accordingly dismissed. Each party to bear own costs,” ruled the court.
Meanwhile, Constitutional Court judge Professor Margaret Munalula delivered a dissenting judgement, saying although she agreed with the majority judgement that ECZ did not breach the constitution, the commission and the Attorney General, who were aware of the different provisions of the law in relation to the Constitution and Electoral Process Act should have caused for the amendment of the law before the holding of the 2016 and 2021 general elections.
In its answer, the Attorney General had argued that the state did not have an obligation to publish the statutory declaration of presidential candidates’ assets and liabilities.
He stated that the provisions of Article 52(3) of the constitution section 30(1)(c) of the Electoral Process Act no.35 of 2016 and Regulations 20(2) of the Electoral Process (General) Regulations, 2016, do not place a mandatory responsibility on the Attorney General to publish the presidential candidates’ statutory declaration of assets and liabilities and is therefore not in breach of the Constitution.
The Attorney General stated that the omission to publish the statutory declaration of the candidates’ assets and liabilities does not contravene the Constitution.