Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo says the appeal filed by former ministers against an order of the Constitutional Court compelling them to pay back salaries and other emoluments obtained during their illegal stay in office is an abuse of the court process.

And Tembo has observed that government wouldn’t have had an issue with expelled Cuban Ambassador to Zambia Nelson Pages had he declared support for the Patriotic Front.

On March 28, PF secretary general Davies Mwila, who is a former minister of home affairs, asked the ConCourt to strike out parts of its ruling which ordered former ministers to pay back saying it was an injustice.

“It is my and the rest of the named Respondent’s respectful desire to have the judgement of this honorable court, to the extent mentioned in paragraph 5 hereof, set aside or reversed on grounds set forth in the notice of motion filed herewith, ” Mwila stated.

He stated that the former ministers’ lawyer, Bonaventure Mutale, had advised him that only the ConCourt could provide relief from the “injustice” caused by its order.

Mwila insisted that the state benefitted from the services rendered by the former ministers during the time they remained in office after the resolution of parliament.

“This application is not aimed at undermining the authority of this honorable court but to afford myself and the other named respondents an opportunity of obtaining a remedy for the injustice suffered through no fault of our own,” stated Mwila.

But in a statement, Wednesday, Tembo asked the ConCourt not to entertain the appeal.

“As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), we are concerned by the decision of the Constitutional Court to tolerate a third appeal on the matter of Ministers who overstayed in office after Parliament was dissolved. The Court first made a pronouncement prior to the 2016 elections in which the Ministers were ordered to pay back the money. In an unusual development, the Attorney General appealed the ConCourt decision in 2017 and again, the ConCourt reaffirmed its earlier decision. Now, we understand that the PF Secretary General has filed a third appeal on the same matter. As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), we strongly believe that this is a clear abuse of court process by the PF and its government. The Constitution of Zambia is very clear that the ConCourt shall be a court of final jurisdiction and that its decisions shall not be subject to appeal. The question is why the ConCourt keeps tolerating appeals from the PF and its government and thereby violating the same Republican Constitution which the ConCourt is supposed to protect? As citizens of this Republic of Zambia, we are sick and tired of being subjected to double standards by state institutions such as the courts, who are in the habit of giving special treatment to the PF and its government, and harsh treatment to the rest of us common citizens,” Tembo stated.

“It must be remembered that Zambia is a constitutional democracy and the continued sustainability of this status depends on the assurance that all citizens shall receive equal protection before the law. In the absence such assurance, our so-called constitutional democracy is not sustainable and risks rejection by the citizenry. We therefore call upon the PF and its government to introspect on this matter and consider withdrawing their third illegal appeal at the ConCourt, on the matter of Ministers paying back the money.”

And in an interview, Tembo observed that Ambassador Vilas wouldn’t have been expelled if he expressed support for the PF.

“I think it must be noted that the Ambassador is new and he has hardly been in the country a week. So it must be understood that even where he’s coming from he’s not a seasoned Ambassador. Then it could also be that that was a genuine error on his part, so the decision to immediately expel him without giving him a hearing is something that is regrettable, the government should not have done that. They should have summoned the Ambassador to find out the context in which he made the statements he made at the [launch of the] Socialist Party. The statements themselves are something that’s unacceptable by someone who is an Ambassador to another country,” said Tembo.

“I don’t think the PF would have reacted the same way they have reacted now had the Ambassador pledged support for the Patriotic Front. It must be noted in the past that various dignitaries have attended PF activities. In 2011 when the PF went to their convention, their convention was graced by the American Ambassador. Perhaps what is different is that the American Ambassador at that time did not pledge any support to the PF, whereas the Cuban Ambassador in this instance has pledged specific support to the socialist party. But that’s not withstanding the decision to expel the Ambassador was extreme. Other kind of measures could have been taken, other than expulsion because expulsion is the last resort. Expulsion is the most extreme of all actions that can be taken against a diplomat.”