Civil Rights Activist Brebner Changala says the Constitutional Court’s ruling in the eligibility case entails that President Edgar Lungu can rule the country forever if he so wishes.
In an interview, Changala said by declaring President Lungu eligible to contest elections in 2021, the ConCourt had caused more confusion which has a potential to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
“The ConCourt deliberately shied away from there, they didn’t say ‘Edgar Lungu will stand or does qualify to stand’ but it may as it is, the ConCourt has actually caused more confusion in this country. They have legitimized the current president or indeed any president that will come after him to govern this country. The concept of the term was for the purposes of calculating the emoluments that have accrued to the incumbent [and] not for eligibility for one to stand. For one to stand, the eligibility is anybody who has served twice is not eligible. It’s a very straight forward English but the situation the ConCourt has put us in now is very dangerous. They have re-written the Constitution themselves to suit their admired candidate, in this case Edgar Chagwa Lungu,” Changala said.
“What this means now is that when any individual does not serve above three years or indeed served below three years [then] that is not a term. The term is or anybody who has served three years and above up to five years, that is to the new found Constitution by the Constitutional court. Now this means that Edgar Lungu can rule this country forever if he wants, before he clocks three years, he can dissolve parliament, which is not a term, and call for fresh elections. He has those powers in the Constitution. And he will be eligible to stand. So again, when he is about to clock another three years, for any mysterious reasons, he can dissolve parliament and call for another fresh elections. He doesn’t need to clock three years and above [that’s] according to the Constitutional court, because when he clocks three years and above, they are calling it a term.”
Changala insisted that the ConCourt established its own new law that any president who serves below three years is eligible to re-contest in an election.
“That is the new law they have established. And get me correctly that I have said that the Constitutional Court has established a new law that ‘anybody who served below three years is eligible to stand,” Changala charged.
“The way forward in this country, first and foremost, the Constitutional Court needs to come out and understand that a term is for emolument purposes, to calculate who has served so many months, so many years and not to use it as an eligibility for one to stand because the framers of the constitution have said ‘anybody who has held office twice is not eligible to stand.’ It’s in black and white. And I want to go further [by saying] in this new found happiness by bwana Edgar Chagwa Lungu, when he goes to file in the nomination papers to the chief justice, there will be a challenge because he will be filing nominations for the third time.”
He charged that the ConCourt judges were all unqualified to sit on the bench.
“And what is very important is the constitutional court failing to address this confusion [which] they have caused and to stop threatening people because we also know [that] by law as established, they are not qualified to sit on that bench. And quote me right, by law as established, they are not supposed to be sitting on that bench because they have not met all the requirements that are needed for somebody to be a constitutional court judge. They have not met all those benchmarks of the law. So they are illegally there, fear nothing. And I am also doubting how they were ratified, whose interest were they serving? Was it the law or the interest of the appointing authority? Because the constitution is supreme and to surrender to us a group of citizens who do not meet the cardinal requirements of the Constitutional [court] judge, that is also an anomaly. And the confusion they have actually created in this country is recipe for anarchy,” Changala said.
Changala said there is need to consult legal minds on whether or not the Judicial Complaints Commission is able to address and revisit the qualifications of the ConCourt judges.
“We urgently as a country collectively need to address the issue of competence and qualification of our colleagues in the Constitutional court. This matter must be addressed urgently. We need to consult our legal minds whether the Judicial Complaints Commission is able to address this issue by revisiting the qualifications for each and everybody who is sitting on the Constitutional court. My take is that the Constitutional court should have taken some elevated people from the High court to the Constitutional court and the new judges who are in the constitutional court should have started their careers in the High court so that they gain experience to handle serious social and human rights issues that may be brought before them. At the moment they have created a serious gap in terms of doubt as to their qualification. And this is supported by the constitution itself as established by law. This must be taken very serious or else they are plunging this country into a constitutional crisis which emanates from the Constitutional court,” said Changala.
“I have consulted very serious lawyers in this country, gurus at law [and] they agree with me that the constitutional court has opened a Pandora box in that they have made a judgement that is half baked, which is not well researched and probably with an …motive, it must have a motive, there was a motive to deliver such a judgement to the people of Zambia. And lastly, President Edgar Lungu does not qualify to appear on the ballot again. That is cardinal as established by law. They must not confuse us [or] later on must not sit on those high chairs to confuse us. The good judgement thinks and defends the judiciary but the bad the bad judgement is a recipe for anarchy, ridicule and other things that will follow thereafter.”