The Lusaka High Court has declared Romeo Kang’ombe as duly elected Sesheke UPND member of parliament saying the will of the people prevailed.
High Court judge in charge Gertrude Chawatama told the court according to her findings, violence during the Sesheke parliamentary by-election was perpetrated by both UPND and the PF, as well as, the police.
In February this year, Sesheke PF losing candidate Dean Masule petitioned the Lusaka High Court, seeking a declaration that the election of Kang’ombe as member of parliament for the constituency, was null and void.
Masule claimed that the campaigns in the said elections were characterised by undue influence that resulted from threats and violence to life and property, as well as, rampant physical attacks on PF members and the general public, resulting in severe injuries.
But in his answer, Kang’ombe asked the Court to dismiss Masule’s petition and denied the latter’s allegations that violence engulfed Sesheke district during the by-election, charging that PF officials themselves undertook acts of electoral malpractice to prevent electorates from voting for him.
And delivering a judgement which lasted more than two hours, Tuesday, High Court judge in charge Gertrude Chawatama dismissed Masule’s petition and declared Kang’ombe as duly elected member of parliament.
She said according to the evidence on record, Kang’ombe did not personally participate in the violence in Sesheke and as such, the petition against his election had failed on that account.
“It has not been proven that the misconduct during the Sesheke by-election was done so by the candidate or with the knowledge, consent or the approval of the respondent or respondent’s election agents, and the majority of voters in the constituency were or may have been prevented from electing their preferred candidate,” Justice Chawatama said.
“The will of the people of Sesheke constituency was expressed by the number of votes secured by the winning candidate, honourable Remeo Kang’ombe. And my primary duty is to sustain that will. In choosing the respondent as their member of parliament, it is left for me to say that he was validly elected as member of parliament in the election held. In view of the evidence before me, I declare that honourable Romeo Kang’ombe was duly elected member of parliament for Sesheke. The petition is thereby dismissed.”
She made no order for costs but granted leave for appeal.
Justice Chawama said although Kang’ombe, during trial, had focused on violence perpetrated by PF supporters, she found that the violence was perpetrated by both the UPND and PF, as well as, the police.
She said the petitioner, Masule, had succeeded in establishing the allegation regarding the violence and undue influence.
“I find so with confidence knowing that really there was no dispute that the election in Sesheke was marred with violence and undue influence,” Justice Chawatama said.
She noted that six out of nine wards in Sesheke were affected by violence and undue influence.
Justice Chawatama, however, said although she found that voters may have been prevented from voting for their preferred candidate because of the violence, that alone could not nullify an election.
She further said there was sufficient evidence to show that Police did perform their statutory duties to maintain law and order under very difficult circumstances, but added that some of the officers were wrong in their actions when they beat up some cadres.
“There was sufficient evidence to show that the Police did perform their statutory duties to maintain law and order under very difficult circumstances. However, I must say that some members of the Zambia Police operating in Sesheke were wrong especially in their actions in the incident of beating up cadres at Sesheke lodge on February 12, 2019,” she said.
Justice Chawatama said the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should have suspended the election or indeed disqualified the candidates who participated in the violence.
Speaking after the judgement amidst jubilations from some UPND supporters, Kang’ombe said the victory was for the people of Sesheke and his UPND family.
“I have already started work for the people of Sesheke. The people of Sesheke have spoken and their rights have been upheld by the court,” said Kang’ombe.
And UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema said PF must go because they had caused too much damage to the country.
“The important thing going forward for us as a country, is to accept the decision of the people of Sesheke. They made their decision loud and clear and we must respect it. What Sesheke people did is to express the feelings of the people across the country. The people of Zambia are fade up with the failures of PF. They are fade up with attempts that are made to manipulate the law especially under the National Dialogue Forum with regard to the attempted amendment of the constitution which does not favour the people of Zambia. It favours the PF. The whole process there favours the PF. People of Sesheke for example are saying no to such manipulation of the people of Zambia by those in office. PF must go and rest they have done too much damage to our country. UPND must take over and look after the people of Zambia,” said Hichilema.