Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) executive director Andrew Ntewewe has advised pioneers of the recently-formed opposition alliance to stop discussing the Constitutional Court judgement on President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility case or risk going to jail.

In an interview, Ntewewe said the continued bickering over President Lungu’s eligibility to contest elections in 2021 by members of the opposition parties was not adding any value to the country’s political discourse.

He, however, urged the 10-member opposition party alliance to clearly define the purpose of their unity and not simply to come together for the core purpose of removing President Lungu and the PF from office.

“First of all, we think that the opposition parties that have come together in that alliance must define why they have come together. It would be naive to just form an alliance to try and remove President Edgar Lungu and PF out of government because once they do that, ultimately, what it shows is that what moves their agenda is personal glory, greed and selfishness. That they simply want to remove the party, which is power, the person who is in State House, and they want to form government themselves. Now, the Zambian people do not want something like that, what they want is a political leadership that will be there for purposes of improving the livelihoods of the people. It is not supposed to be about improving the livelihoods of few individuals who form an alliance and then they want to form government,” Ntewewe said.

“The basis of an alliance should not be about removing a government. It should be moved by meeting the aspirations of the Zambian people. So, listening to the alliance and listening to what they are talking about, it does not inspire confidence. Because, for instance, the Constitutional Court judgement, we are all aware that the ConCourt is the court of final jurisdiction and when it makes a decision, that is final, it cannot be overturned by anyone. In essence, as YALI, our advice has been even prior to the judgement, that we should respect the judgement that comes out of the courts. If people want to criticize the judgement, yes, they can criticize it, but they are not supposed to scandalize the courts. When you begin to tell people that: ‘can you rise against the ConCourt judgement’, that is contempt! What you are doing is that you are now trying to take the law into your own hands. What you are doing is that you are not respecting the integrity and sanctity of the courts.”

Ntewewe added that scandalizing the courts was unacceptable.

“From YALI’s point of view, we have been very clear that anyone who scandalizes, we will be the first to push for contempt proceedings to be taken against them. So, the background of the opposition alliance, insofar as it relates to the ConCourt judgement, is misplaced and we want to advise the opposition that the best thing they can do is to sit down, try and think about what is it that they are offering the Zambian people because from a person on the sidelines outside politics, looking at what the opposition are doing, it seems they have run out of ideas because one expects them to talk about tangible issues. The Zambian people are concerned about having access to education. They want more secondary schools so that everyone can [have] access to education. That’s the debate that we expect the opposition to begin to tell us. What is it that the PF have done, which themselves they can do better?” wondered Ntewewe.

“In 2019, government is going to introduce the Sales Tax and remove VAT; what is the position of the opposition in terms of how the mining sector can grow to create wealth and in the process move our economy to the other level? Unfortunately, these issues are not being debated. So, our call to the opposition is, let them sit down, let them not be moved by envy and jealousy that there is someone in State House who they think should not be there and it’s them that are supposed to be there. That’s not the case, the debate should be about, what is it that you want to do for the Zambian people, which the PF are not doing and you can do better? That is the debate we are supposed to be having. We are supposed to have a development driven debate. We are supposed to fight intellectually on development discourse. So, debates about the ConCourt ruling should neither be here nor there because it’s final, and if they are not careful, they might end up going to jail for contempt. The best thing they are supposed to do is that let us debate intellectually on the development discourse.”