Transparency International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka has asked President Edgar Lungu to consider the fact that if the courts allow him to stand for a third term, there might be chaos.
And Lifuka says it was wrong for President Lungu to ridicule Kenyan Supreme Court judges because that country is a sovereign state.
In a written response to a press query, Lifuka stated that it was amazing that President Lungu thought chaos could only arise if he was stopped from standing.
“President Lungu – in one breath, he rightly calls on the Judiciary to do its work without fear or favour, and yet in another breath, he warns them not to be adventurous and copy what their colleagues in Kenya did. Two issues that are of concern to us- firstly, it would seem as if the only time the judiciary and the Constitutional Court in particular, will be deemed to have done their work without fear or favour, is when they determine matters before them in favour of the ruling party or its supporters. Surely, President Lungu, as a lawyer, is fully aware that decisions of the court could go against a party and they should be willing and ready to accept such decisions. In this particular case, the groups that have petitioned the Constitutional Court, should be ready to accept the determination of the court. They went to Court to seek an interpretation of the constitution and they should allow the courts to make that interpretation without undue influence. Secondly, it is amazing how President Lungu only considers one side of the coin – namely, that there will be potential chaos in the country if the courts do not determine in the affirmative on the position whether he is eligible to stand in 2021. What about the potential chaos that may follow if an opposite decision of the courts is made?” Lifuka asked.
“So from what is being said- if the courts rule in favour of the petitioners who support President Lungu’s eligibility to run in 2021, all Zambians should accept such a decision and respect the courts of law for the work they do. However, if the courts rule against President Lungu’s interest, then the ruling party and its supporters will not accept this decision and there will be chaos in this country. We challenge President Lungu to categorically state what he meant by his remarks made in Solwezi.”
Lifuka said TIZ was not shocked by President Lungu’s attacks because attacking judges had become a norm in the PF.
“As Transparency International Zambia, we are not surprised by the veiled attacks on the Judiciary by President Edgar Lungu through his uncalled for statements made in Solwezi recently. What we find unfortunate is that such attacks have become a settled pattern for the Patriotic Front government, which seems intent on unfairly condemning the Judiciary every time the men and women in robes pass judgments or make determinations which are unfavourable to the ruling party. We do recall that in March 2015, the then Secretary General for the PF – Mr Davies Chama, castigated Honourable Mr. Justice Mwila Chitabo SC for his ruling overturning the decision of President Edgar Lungu to set up a Tribunal to probe the Director of Public Prosecutions who had been suspended by the President. Again in recent times, a Presidential aide took aim at the Judiciary for decisions made in nullifying seats held by Members of Parliament from the ruling party. President Lungu did not condemn his Press aide and instead came to his support,” he stated.
“Therefore, this latest episode should not shock us as Zambians but this should serve as a confirmation of a systematic attempt to undermine the credibility of the judiciary. We want to appeal to Zambians not to permit these political maneuvers – yes, while we all recognise some inadequacies in the Judiciary, this should not be a cause to undermine this important arm of government. We find President Lungu’s recent statement inflammatory and one that does little to protect the judiciary as claimed by his party. There is an apparent doublespeak on the part of the
It is a pity that President Lungu- as Head of State and a Lawyer, seems to cast aspersions on the intelligence and credibility of judges of the Constitutional Court. He insinuates that these Judges will not make their decisions independently and on the merits of the case before them, but will seemingly be influenced by the brave and courageous stance taken by the Judges of the Supreme Court in Kenya. It is surprising that this is the same government that condemned and rightly so, the attacks levelled against the Judiciary by the opposition political party leader – Mr. Hakainde Hichilema while on a trip to South Africa in September 2017.”
Lifuka advised President Lungu to take the lead in protecting the Judiciary.
“So, it is right for Government to condemn others for attacking the Judiciary and it is also right for the Government and the ruling party to attack the Judiciary and we should all just keep quiet as these attacks are a form of protecting the Judiciary, as we are made to believe by both party and government operatives. The bottomline is that we live in a constitutional democracy – one that has separation of powers and the rule of law as its bedrock and this should be respected by all. The judiciary should be independent and operate without any undue influence from politicians and stakeholders alike. President Lungu should take the lead in protecting the judiciary- and ensure that this body receive all the support it needs to serve as the glue that holds our democratic tenets together. Yes, there will be times when the courts rule against stakeholders or politicians but this should not be the justification for such spurious attacks,” he stated.
And observed that it was not in President Lungu’s place to discuss the competency of the Kenyan courts.
“We are amazed that President Lungu decided to ridicule judges of the Supreme Court of Kenya for the decisions they made in the recent Presidential election petition. President Lungu does not need any reminding that Kenya is a sovereign nation and that it is not his place or any of the Zambians to go and discuss the competency of a court in Kenya or elsewhere. We are sure that President Lungu and his ministers, will be the first ones to complain if the Kenyan Head of State went public to ridicule the decisions of the Zambian Courts of Law and urging his judiciary not to follow suit. We therefore want to urge President Lungu, opposition political party leaders and all stakeholders, to protect the judiciary from these unwarranted and ill timed attacks on the judiciary. In the meantime, we urge the Judiciary to stand firm and do their work, truly without fear or favour,” stated Lifuka.