CONSTITUTIONAL Lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel says the Patriotic Front has chosen President Lungu to stand as the party’s Presidential candidate in 2021 at their own peril because the Head of State is ineligible.
And Sangwa says he respects the opinion of PF secretary general Davies Mwila who defined him as a “dull lawyer” saying, the message is actually an attack on the distinguished lawyers and legal practitioners serving the judiciary whom he has taught in the last 20 years.
In an interview, Sangwa said it was nonsensical to ask him to withdraw his legal opinion.
“Firstly, I take great exception to anyone asking me to withdraw my legal opinion on Lungu’s eligibility. There is no way I can do that. It’s not a crime to tell the President that ‘you don’t qualify’, so what will I withdraw? I am a citizen of this country and I am also a voter. It is within my right to tell a political contender that you don’t qualify to rule over me. So, all those people in PF who are just talking from without like that Sunday guy, I don’t know why they can’t read. They don’t know the history of this country and how we suffered under the one-party rule. That’s the problems when you have a country full of Juveniles. People are lazy to read, don’t just argue, read the law. And Mwila can call me dull, it’s laughable but it’s fine. The only problem is that his attack is on the integrity of the many lawyers I have taught for the past 20 years. If I am dull, then all those lawyers must resit their law school and exams,” he said.
“I have been a lawyer for many years. By 1991 when Kaunda was losing power, I was already admitted to the bar. You can’t tell me today that I want to join politics, I have a job, I have a wonderful career and I have no reason to join politics towards my old age. That’s nonsense! But again, it doesn’t mean that political issues are a preserve of politicians, no! I don’t need to be a politician in order to comment on political issues. As long as I have the right to vote, I have the right to express my views, and every citizen has that right. Your right to vote is your consent to say ‘I agree, you can rule over me’. So, I respect those who disagree with my legal opinion, but they should also respect mine!
And Sangwa said the PF could nominate President Lungu at their own peril.
“You take chances at your own peril because the law is there. Even if you look at the Constitution, it doesn’t allow for a sole candidate in a political party. The Constitution allows you to have competitive elections within your own political party. If you make the mistake of choosing someone who is not eligible as your party candidate, whose fault is that? The law is very clear, and we always say ‘ignorance of the law is no defense’. The beauty with this thing is that we cannot speculate, we cannot assume that Lungu is going to stand in 2021. Let us wait for him to file papers, that’s when now we will go to court. Don’t forget, this is a country of laws, we don’t bend laws to suit an individual, no!” Sangwa exclaimed.
“Individuals must conform to the law. We cannot begin to twist the law in order to avoid chaos in some political party, no! So whether you are a political party or otherwise, we are all bound by the law. Even if it was the issue of HH, even if you take out Edgar and you put HH, the result is the same. HH would still not be eligible to stand in 2021. Irrespective of who you are, there is no law for HH and there is no law for Lungu, there is law for everybody.”
Sangwa insisted that allowing President Lungu to contest elections in 2021 would be the worst thing that would happen to Zambia’s democracy.
“In fact, in the general extreme of things, Bill 10 is not even important, it’s not even a danger to Zambia’s democracy. The biggest danger to Zambia’s democracy is Lungu standing for a third time. That’s the biggest danger because no President since 1991 has ever gone for three elections. So you don’t want to set a bad precedence because once you set a bad precedence, you cannot undo it. That is why we need to fight this, he shouldn’t go for third term, he has already been elected twice and this has nothing to do with the number of years he served. The point is, as long as you have been elected twice, then that’s it, you are done. That clause in the Constitution has never changed since 1991, once you’ve served twice then that’s it, you cannot go for a third term,” said Sangwa.