UPND Leader Hakainde Hichilema says Constitutional Court judges should remain professional and not allow President Edgar Lungu to intimidate them.
Speaking in Solwezi yesterday, President Lungu warned Constitutional Court judges that if they emulate Kenyans and disqualify him from standing again in 2021, there will be chaos in the country.
“To my colleagues in the Judiciary, my message is just do your work, interpret the law without fear or favour and look at the best interest of this country. Don’t become a copycat and think that you are a hero if you plunge this country into chaos. Those people who don’t like peace and freedom will say ‘President Lungu is intimidating the courts of law’, I am not intimidating the judiciary, I am just warning you because I have information that some of you want to be adventurous, your adventure should not plunge us into chaos please!” President Lungu exclaimed.
“In English there is a saying, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. We don’t want to plunge this country into chaos because we are trying to imitate what’s happening elsewhere. We are a beckon of peace and freedom, let us keep it that way. I was on the ballot paper as candidate and I assured that I would protect Zambia and that I will do.”
But at a press briefing at his residence in Lusaka today, Hichilema said it was wrong for President Lungu to intimidate an independent arm of the government.
“Mr Lungu yesterday in Solwezi indicated that he did not want courts in Zambia, courts of law, his courts of law, our courts of law, people’s courts not to follow the Kenyan way, not to rule in matters relating to some people, politicians in this case more specifically himself regarding whether or not he qualifies to stand, to run for the presidency in 2021. And he sent a clear message, a massage which has two important factors. One, warning the judges that they must not follow the Kenyan ruling. In his mind I don’t know what is the Kenyan ruling. For us in Zambia, in Africa, we have cherished the Kenyan ruling on the nullification of the 2017 elections because it brought out a lot of things that have not been commonly discussed in our continent with regard to following constitutional procedures, provisions as they relate to elections, free, fair, credible elections,” Hichilema said.
“So the Kenya ruling is a landmark ruling and why would Mr Lungu be unhappy about that Kenyan ruling? You can speculate yourselves but your speculation is as good as mine. But to me, he knows what he did to the 2016 elections. So he then warns the judges, the bench that do not follow the Kenyan example because I am warning you. He is warning an independent arm of government, suppose to be independent arm of government, what is he doing? He is breaking the rule of law again as he has done with impunity since he took office in 2015.”
Hichilema said President Lungu was not above the law.
“The second message he delivered to me out of the many things that he said in Solwezi is that it doesn’t matter what the court may rule on his candidature for 2021 whether he qualifies or not, it doesn’t matter what the court ruling will be. Having threatened the judges, he says he doesn’t care what the ruling will be because he is standing as a candidate in 2021 as long as his party the PF allows him to do so. So he is basically saying it doesn’t matter to take issues to court. It’s of no value according to him to take any matters that citizens, individuals or groups or organisations are aggrieved about. As per provisions of the Bill of Rights in our constitution, he doesn’t care about that. All he cares is that he will run regarding who says what, whether its a court. He is basically saying to us, he is above the law. He may think he is above the law but we representing millions of citizens who are saying ‘no Mr Lungu you are not above the law’,” he said.
Meanwhile Hichilema highlighted some of the issues he wanted to be addressed in the national dialogue.
“We have put in the dialogue process. Nanga nikubisa (no need to hide, why should you hide?) (I) We want restoration of the rule of law number one, (ii) we want the restoration of human rights and freedoms and liberties including freedom of movement, freedom of the press, we are talking for the press, we are not talking for ourselves, because if we have freedom of the press it means you can operate freely even to criticise HH. That is the way it should be. But you can help us through. Three, we want to end political violence which is police brutality, police killing citizens and PF thugs killing citizens, taking citizens at cemeteries, we don’t want that. Number four, we don’t want the public order act to be abused and to continue being applied the way it is. Number five, we want an independent judiciary. Not threatening the judiciary. We want political prisoners, detainees, refugees to be released,” Hichilema said.
And commenting on the latest Auditor General’s report, Hichilema said some people were lavishing in stolen money at the expense of the poor Zambians.
“Auditor General’s report shows misappropriation of funds getting worse, corruption link is there obviously, it’s there. When the rest of the citizens are suffering the cost of living is high. That is what should be abdicating Zambians, that’s why people are facing difficulties in their homes, households, children being out of school, those who have completed schools are not working. When some people are lavishing in stolen money. The auditor general’s report confirms that corruption has become congeneric in this country. It confirms that corruption is taking away resources from hospitals, corruption is taking away resources from farmers. That’s why they (famers) are paid K60 and effective K35 per bag of mealie meal because the PF MPs and those around Mr Lungu in state house started by getting contracts in other countries to export maize and then because of grid and corruption they wanted to make more money so they asked the FRA to announce lower prices,” said Hichilema.