The Law Association of Zambia has expressed concern that President Lungu’s remarks that he will stand in 2021 risk influencing the outcome of his eligibility case which is before the Constitutional Court.
And LAZ has warned the Patriotic Front government against adding or removing any clauses from the Constitution during the refining process, adding that the excersise must focus on making ambiguous provisions easier to understand.
Meanwhile, responding to a press query, Kasonde who is also OASIS Forum chairperson told News Diggers! that Zambia had an international obligation to protect the Financial Intelligence Centre, especially now when it is reported to be under siege from criminal elements.
Asked to comment on President Lungu’s statement that he would re-contest the presidency in 2021 because his friends want him to, Kasonde said the Head of State needed to respect the independence of the Judiciary.
“The issue of whether President Lungu is eligible to stand in the 2021 presidential election is a matter that is still an active case before the Constitutional Court. There are rules of court that prevent public commentary on matters that are before the courts. This is particularly the case for members of the public that are directly affected by the outcome of a case such as President Lungu in this case. This is to avoid the courts being unduly influenced by public opinion. We therefore urge President Lungu and all members of the public to let the Judiciary do its work without hindrance and allow the law to take its course,” Kasonde said.
She said court orders were meant to be obeyed and those arguing with the ruling of the Constitutional Court, ordering former ministers to pay for staying in office illegally, were only fuelling anarchy in the country.
“LAZ applauds government officials that are urging respect for court orders as that is how government should operate. The rule of law is underpinned by respect for the Judiciary and adherence to law enforcement. As LAZ has stated on several occasions, in our Zambian democracy the Judiciary is a separate arm of government that is not controlled by any other arm of government. That separation of powers should be respected by everyone including those in the highest offices in the land. It is not optional. Court orders must be obeyed. The alternative is anarchy and lawlessness. If Zambia truly wants to maintain its reputation as a beacon of democracy on the African continent, we would do well to observe the rule of law and to respect and abide by decisions of the judiciary,” Kasonde said.
And Kasonde said the refining of the Constitution must not be done with ill intentions by those in power.
“LAZ participated in the advocacy for a people-driven constitution. We did not entirely succeed as the process was eventually taken through parliament. However LAZ still believes, and has submitted as such to the Minister of Justice, that any process to refine the amended Constitution should only serve to clarify areas of the amended Constitution which were unclear in terms of the language and not the substance. The aim is to make the substance of the Constitution that was submitted to the Constitutional Review Commissions and the Technical Committee drafting the constitution easier to understand,” she said.
“This does not mean adding or subtracting the substance of what was submitted by the people of Zambia. The will of the people of Zambia, as submitted in the Constitutional Review Commissions should be respected. Ideally, what LAZ had advocated for during the campaign for a people-driven constitution, was to have a committee of constitutional law experts review the draft constitution to make sure that the language used was clear and unambiguous whilst adhering to the will of the people. That was not done. The process undertaken by the Constitutional Review Commissions was one that involved all citizens of Zambia and was therefore very inclusive. LAZ hopes that the process initiated by the Minister of Justice to refine the Constitution does not remove or add anything that was demanded by the people of Zambia and that the will of the people of Zambia should be respected.”
Meanwhile, LAZ condemned attempts aimed at weakening the Financial Intelligence Centre.
“LAZ condemns any unwarranted attacks on the Financial Intelligence Centre in the strongest terms. Through its criminal investigations, FIC serves to ensure that our country is safeguarded against criminal elements both locally and internationally. As a signatory to various international agreements on the issue of illicit financial transactions, Zambia has international obligations to ensure that this role is performed effectively,” said Kasonde.