Constitutional Lawyer and former Justice Minister Dr Rodger Chongwe State Counsel says it is pointless to have a lawyer President who can neither interpret the law nor take advice from his Attorney General.
And Chongwe says Zambia does not belong to President Lungu or his father for him to disregard the Constitution and wish to stay in power beyond what the law dictates.
In this verbatim interview, Dr Chongwe expresses disappointment that President Lungu’s interpretation of the law “is rotten”.
He further wonders why people should be fighting over the President’s eligibility when the Constitution was very clear that a person who has twice been elected President and has also held office twice cannot be sworn in for the third time.
Asked about the Constitutional Court ruling which is argued to have declared President Lungu eligible, Dr Chongwe said sometimes, what comes out of the Constitutional Court is “rubbish” because judges are just humans who can make mistakes.
Below is the full interview with Dr Chongwe:
LUNGU’S ELIGIBILITY IN 2021
John Sangwa explained, didn’t he? Even Elias Chipimo explained what the position is. And the position is that our President has been twice elected as President. And the Constitution says if you have been twice elected President, you cannot again seek re-election. He has had his stay in power as President of the Republic of Zambia twice. The men and women who are saying that he is not fit to stand are not saying that the PF cannot field another person to stand for presidency in 2021, they are just saying that for the election next year, our current President who has held the presidency since 2015 does not have the capacity in law to stand for the Office of President. And that has nothing to do with whether he has performed well or he has performed badly, it is just that the law in this country says ‘ if you have twice been elected, you have twice held the office of the President, you cannot hold it for the third time. It is not because anybody hates Mr Lungu, there is no hatred here for anybody. We are talking about the law that is there, which is the Constitution of this country.
THE CONCOURT RULING
You can’t say ‘because the Constitutional Court said something like this then it means something different’, no! Judges make mistakes, don’t they? They misread the words in the Constitution. The Constitutional Court, there are a lot of things they say which are rubbish. They also make mistakes. They can overlook things. And the Constitution is very clear; if you read the explanation given by Elias Chipimo, it is clear that our current President is not competent at law, does not qualify to stand for elections next year. I am not saying this because I am not a member of the PF, or because I am a member of the party which may be against Mr Lungu, no! I am saying this after looking at the Constitution itself.
ANOTHER PF CANDIDATE
Why should it worry Mr Lungu? If Mr Lungu thinks he is going to win elections next year as a candidate on the ticket of PF, anybody else who stands on the ticket of PF, whether it is [Chitalu] Chilufya, whether it is [Kelvin] Fube, whether it is anybody else, if the performance of the PF has been good as far as the electorates in Zambia are concerned, they will elect him as the next President under the banner of PF. Nobody in this country says the PF should not stand for office next year.
Is President Edgar Lungu telling me that he is the only competent person in the PF today who can stand for presidency? There are others who can stand and maybe win. Let us look at the Constitution. There are so many competent people in the party who would like to be President of Zambia. There is no need for Mr Lungu to insist that he should stand even when the Constitution says no. Even his Vice-President can stand. He has got many ministers who can stand. He can give it to [Prof Nkandu] Luo if he wants. Why not? Beve yayi chasila (It is over for him). Mr Lungu, you have stood for the office twice. You mean everyone in the PF has died and there is no one who has capacity to stand?
LUNGU FAILING TO TAKE ADVICE
Don’t make us look stupid and waste our time to talk about rubbish and nonsense. Our current President does not qualify under the Constitution which is there. Let us not waste time over someone who has already been President twice, and he will still be President up to next year. What is his problem? Wasting people’s time to talk about nothing. Let us quarrel about how we are going to run our country, how we should respect the laws of this country, how we should make sure our people have access to jobs. Right now, our people are saying there are no jobs. Please!
Nobody in this country is above the Constitution, Mr Lungu included. And in any case, he will be there to advise the new president on how to run the country. It is pointless to have a person who is a lawyer and doesn’t want to take advice from his Attorney General, officials in the Attorney General’s office or even from me who has been a Ministry of Justice who brought about political pluralism in this country. In 1990, when we were saying to President Kaunda that we want a change from one state system to a multi- party system, we were not talking against President Kaunda, we were talking about change of our Constitution to allow competition.
ZAMBIA DOESN’T BELONG TO LUNGU
Kodi a Lungu, Mulungu ananena kuti muzankala President wamuyayaya? Dziko ino ana pangila Lungu? Niya atate babo ino dziko? (Did God say President Lungu should rule forever? Was this country made for him? Is this his father’s country?) Muzibauza muchinyanja (tell him in vernacular) if he doesn’t understand English, yet he is a lawyer.
Dr Kaunda was President for 27 years. We never had a problem of the magnitude that we have now under Mr Lungu. Sitifuna ndeo muno, sitifuna nkhondo. Kuya bebele. (We do not want fights, we don’t want war. He has to go). A Lungu has been there twice elected. Chaba kanga ku running’a dziko lino. Anthu ananjala, baliye nchito lomba chamene afunila kuti awelele soti nichinji? Tiliye chakulya, ma bridge akuya, ukawalala wapaka mu boma yake. Awisi Tasila chokaniponi. (He has failed to run the country. People are hungry, bridges are being washed away, theft has increased in his government. Why does he want to run for office again? No, Tasila’s father, step aside).
There is a life anybody can live after being President. A Rupiah sibenze aPresident si apa tuyenda nao mu Cairo Road? A Kaunda sibenze aPresident? Ni same na Lungu, he will come to size noyenda mu musebo ngati seo mu Cairo Road. And we will have a cup of coffee with him as a friend. (Wasn’t Rupiah Banda a President? Aren’t we walking with him in Cairo Road? Wasn’t Kaunda a president? He is no longer one. It is same with President Lungu, we will be meeting in Cairo Road).
Tikoyambana chi document chilipo? A lungu ni a lawyer siteti? Lomba wu lawyer wabo uchita kwati niwo sasa. (Why should we be fighting when the document (Constitution) is there? Isn’t the President a lawyer? His understanding of the law is rotten). The constitution is saying “twice elected”, if we allow him we will actually be committing an offence.
HE HAS FAILED TO RUN THE COUNTRY
Even kuti tichite nabo chifundo, bana basu sanga lute ku sikulu, university lecturers are not being paid. Everything is falling into pieces. Beve bakamba nifuna ku nkala pali uPresident. Nkoyani mukapumule, ntawi yakwana. Achokepo awisi Tasila. (Even if we sympathize with him, our children are not going to school. He is still insisting to stand. Go and rest)!
Not that we hate him. If he wants us to change the Constitution, let us change the Constitution so that he can do what he wants, but for now, the Constitution is not talking about the term, it’s talking about “twice, elected twice”. Mubauze a Lungu kapena afuna muka bapaseko narrations on Constitutional law. Otumvwisha nsoni seo tefuma ku Chipata kuti tili na mwana waku Chipata ni President koma soziba malamulo ( Tell him maybe he needs lessons on narration in Constitutional law. He is embarrassing us from Chipata. We are proud that we have a son who is a President but he doesn’t know how to interpret the law).
It’s better kusiya chipuna naulemu ( It is better to leave the presidency in a respectable manner). He is going to be disgraced. He is far much better to obey the law. And in any case, he will be giving chance to his political party. His attitude is not good for the party. It is ruining the chances that PF has to offer to this country.