Transparency International Zambia says the Constitutional Court has left citizens with more questions regarding President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility to contest the 2021 elections.
And TIZ has asked judges to stop threatening citizens who are commenting on their judgments because they are not infallible.
Meanwhile, TIZ says it is only President Lungu who can set the tone on the fight against corruption.
Speaking on Hot FM’s Frank on Hot, Tuesday, TIZ president Rueben Lifuka also wondered why the ConCourt seemingly assumed the role of Parliament by fitting in new clauses in the Constitution.
“2015 elections, from my lay mans reading of the Constitution, were conducted on the basis of the existing constitution at the time which was quite clear as to the eligibility of the person who should run for office, the term of office of a person who’s held office, what that entails, etc. So what the Constitutional Court has done now, in my view, is to create this bridge between 2015 and 2016 because in actual fact, they argued that transitional arrangements were not envisaged or they were not proposed by the legislature to facilitate what would happen between 2015 and 2016. Granted, if the Constitutional Court had noted this lacuna, so to say, what I don’t understand, and I am hoping that lawyers will help us get to the bottom of this is why the Constitutional Court has taken it upon itself to do the role of Parliament and actually create a new provision. That is something thats puzzling a lot of us and probably, we need to get more inspired legal minds to help us understand what is happening,” Lifuka said.
“That said, are we only saying the only transitional arrangements that should be provided for are for the President? Or there could be several other transitional arrangements? Because others can also claim, for instance if you talk about issues of emoluments, whether it is the Secretary to Cabinet or a senior Cabinet position at the time and left before the constitutional amendments took effect, will they claim that they should enjoy the same benefits that are being enjoyed on the basis of the new amended constitution? The amended Constitution provides that a person who should be retired should be paid on the day on which they retire otherwise they remain on the payroll until such a time that their pension or gratuity and any other benefits are paid. Would those that left before this Constitution came into effect equally claim and go to the Constitutional Court and claim those transition arrangements? So in a nutshell, one would have hoped that the Constitutional Court will create the necessary stability and clarity on these matters, I am not too sure whether they have done that.”
And Lifuka asked judges to stop threatening citizens who were commenting on their judgments because they are not infallible.
Maybe we need to see what Parliament will do as they refine the Constitution but as matters stand, I think they have left a number of us still in the dark and asking questions. It is a done deal, there is very little anyone can do about it, it is a final authority insofar as these matters are concerned but to what extent does this endear confidence in the court? To what extent does this endear confidence in its judgements? Yes, I see this happening now and the judiciary saying we shouldn’t comment on matters before the courts, I agree, we need to all be careful about that so that we can insulate the court from all this ridicule and comments which may be unfair to their conduct, however, judges are not infallible and this is a point that the Judiciary should know,” he said.
“Even from a Transparency International perspective, we’ve noted worldwide that corruption does not leave out any sector, no sector is excluded, including the Judiciary and it therefore behooves on every Zambian to take keen interest that we have a Judiciary that is above board, a Judiciary that is not tainted in any way by any allegations of corruption. So the Judiciary also have a role to play to balance on this. Not to just label everything as contempt, but to also understand that the work of the Judiciary must come under scrutiny of the general public. It’s the Judiciary working for the people, it is not working for itself and therefore, when people raise some of these questions, the Judiciary should in a sober mind address the issues. To use a sledge hammer now for every criticism of the Judiciary may not work. You may silence the people, but they will just lose trust and when the people lose faith in the justice system, they will invest their resources in buying justice.”
Meanwhile, Lifuka said it is only President Lungu who can set the tone on the fight against corruption.
“President Lungu has a unique position as Head of State to send the right message. It is not just saying ‘jail the corrupt’, it is saying to his ministers, ‘I will not take this corruption. 2019 should be a turning point and I would like you as Cabinet ministers to be in the forefront to ensure that your ministries are clean.No corrupt activities, no donor money being misappropriated. And if systems are weak, we will do everything possible to clean up those systems and give to the Zambian people the gift of a corrupt free Zambia’. He sets the tone,” said Lifuka.