THE Constitutional Court has ruled that nine PF MPs who were suspended from Parliament by the Speaker after the nullification of their seats should continue being part of the House, pending determination of their appeals.
The court has held that a member of parliament whose election has been nullified by the High Court and has appealed to the Constitutional Court, by operation of the law, retains the seat in Parliament pending the determination of that appeal.
And Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Abyudi Shonga says the court’s ruling means that the Speaker’s decision to ask the members of parliament to leave the House was not correct.
Meanwhile, a few hours after the court’s ruling, Kabushi PF member of parliament Bowman Lusambo, who is among the nine MPs, posted pictures of himself in the Chamber on his Facebook page, with a caption, “Comfortably back in the House. Thanks to the power of democracy. Kabushi, you are now fully represented”.
This is a matter in which LAZ dragged the state to court seeking an interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution on whether a member of parliament whose election has been nullified and has appealed to the Constitutional Court can continue to hold the seat in Parliament, pending the outcome of the appeal.
LAZ also wanted the court to determine whether Article 72(2)(h) of the Constitution is applicable where a seat held by a member of parliament has been nullified following the hearing and determination of an election petition in line with Article 73(1) and (2) of the Constitution.
The association cited the Attorney General as the respondent in the matter.
In December last year, Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti ruled that all members of parliament whose election was nullified by the High Court, whether or not such a decision had been appealed against, will not take part in any Parliamentary business.
But in a judgement delivered yesterday by Constitutional Court judge Palan Mulonda on behalf of other ConCourt judges; Hildah Chibomba, Mungeni Mulenga, Prof Margaret Munalula and Judy Mulongoti, the court said the MPs were supposed to remain in the House having appealed to the Constitutional Court against the High Court‘s decision to nullify their seats.
“On a purposive interpretation of Article 73 (3) and (4) read with Article 128 (1) (d) and 57 of the Constitution, we hold that a Member of Parliament whose election has been nullified by the High Court and appeals to this court, by operation of the law retains the seat in Parliament pending the determination of the appeal,” ruled the court.
“It is our considered view that Article 73(4) which provides for the retention of a seat in the National Assembly pending determination of an election petition should also have expressly provided for the retention of the seat pending the determination of an appeal to this court. We are fortified by the fact that after the High Court nullifies an election there is a decision which can be executed and which may trigger a by-election under Article 57. Hence, the need for a purposive interpretation of Article 73(4) to apply to the appeal stage. We urge the Legislature to make appropriate amendments to the law to cater for the appeal stage in clear terms.”
And speaking to journalists after the judgement, Shonga said the court’s ruling meant that the Speaker’s decision to ask the members of parliament to leave the House was incorrect.
“What this means then for purposes of clarity is that the Speaker’s decision to ask the members of parliament to leave the House was not correct according to the way the court has interpreted. And so those members of the parliament are entitled to remain in the House until their appeals have been determined by the Constitutional Court. That is a clear reading of the decision of the Constitutional Court which binds everybody. So as LAZ, we feel that a gray area has been made clear and you heard that there is a call by the Constitutional Court for the laws to be amended to be made clear on this as it has made its determination,” said Shonga.