PF chairperson for legal affairs Brian Mundubile says the ruling party wants Article 52 removed because it disadvantages candidates, not just President Edgar Lungu, by shortening their campaign period once their nominations are challenged in court.
But Mundubile says the party is not threatened by Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa’s intention to petition President Lungu’s nomination because the Constitutional Court already decided on the matter.
In an interview, Mundubile said Article 52 needed to be repealed because it was disadvantageous to affected candidates.
“I want to proceed to mention that the spirited fight for those that didn’t know that State Counsel John Sangwa has been putting up against Bill 10 was just on account of wanting to bar President Lungu or to challenge the nomination of President Lungu. They have been fighting amendments to Article 52. Now when you are making a Constitution, you should not target an individual for instance President Lungu in this particular case, 2021 is his last chance to stand for elections as President. Now, if you fight amendments to Article 52, that will stand for a very long time affecting many other people, councillors will be affected, MPs will be affected and indeed other Presidential candidates. So the whole essence of cleaning that particular article is that we looked at the practicality of elections,” Mundubile said.
“When you look at the practicality of elections, [it] is that in any given election context, in this particular case at adoption stage, there are a number of competitors and aspirants. So, let us take for instance a councillor, when a councillor is petitioned, after he or she files in his nomination with only 60 days to campaign and the matter is determined after 21 days and this particularly, then the councillor is cleared to proceed and campaign elections he would have lost one month meaning that going back to the campaign they already had lost that steam, he loses his supporters. So, there is no mechanism to atone the damage that has resulted on this particular councillor. So, we were saying in order to have a clean process where at the face of it the ECZ checks, they have basic procedures to ensure that a particular candidate is eligible, should there be other evidence to show that one is not eligible, maybe he presented false documents, or this person was not eligible in the first place, you can follow them to court and petition their election. So, nobody is disadvantaged per se but in the other case, the candidate is disadvantaged.”
Mundubile, however, said the party was confident that the ConCourt would not change its position on the matter even if a fresh petition was brought to the table.
“The question as to whether President Lungu was eligible to stand in 2021 was decided by the ConCourt. We also know that State Counsel John Sangwa exhausted all his arguments as regards to the President’s eligibility in 2021. So, even if he has that petition on his laptop, we know that there are no different arguments that he can present to the ConCourt to convince the courts otherwise, just like we know the position of the court is. We remain firm and to support that position, people have been saying and have been underrating in their statements, underrating President Lungu’s strength, but we can see that they are playing double standards. You are thinking that you have a weak candidate but at the same time you are almost blocking the Constitution making process just to block this person, what does that mean? That is how strong the candidate is! President Lungu has continued to deliver to the people and we are confident he will emerge victorious,” Mundubile said.
“We have a very strong candidate that people are ready to even block the Constitution making process just to stop him from standing because they know that when President Lungu stands, there is no chance. We are very confident because the court ruled, there is no other position the court will take on this matter. I have read that particular judgement three to four times and I am very convinced that there is no other position that they will take other than that position. So, even if our colleagues petition the court, the court will come with the same judgement.”
Mundubile wondered why Sangwa wasn’t taking his petition to court immediately.
“So, to target President Lungu on account of Article 52 is being unfair to many other aspiring candidates that are to be affected by that particular article in the future. So, if State Counsel John Sangwa still had questions as regards the judgement on President Lungu’s eligibility, they can simply go to court now for further interpretations and allow the Constitution process to proceed. They can get the answer they are looking for in future, they can get it now. If they have some discomfort they have on that judgement, if they are not clear as to what the court said about that particular judgement, they can still go to court now for further interpretation rather than to wait and keep that petition on the laptop for the next one year just to come and file in that petition. They can actually go to court now, so that amendments to article 52 should not affect other people that are may be not targeted by these few individuals in this particular case,” said Mundubile.
“So our advice and counsel is that when we are making a Constitution we must look at it holistically. We have made mistakes like this in the past where individuals have been targeted in making a constitution then later on, you find yourself in a Constitution that is absurd, a Constitution that raises more questions than answers. This is because people have been targeted in the past and in this particular case, I think there is no need to put that spirited fight all because of one article, yet you can address the questions with the court now as to whether President Lungu is eligible or not because that article will not only affect Presidential candidates, it will affect councilors, MPs. So, I think as a people, let us take a different direction when it comes to Constitutional making so that we don’t amend the Constitution so often.”