CONSTITUTIONAL Lawyer Rodger Chongwe says President Edgar Lungu should have listened to Attorney General Likando Kalaluka’s advice on ministers staying in office after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016.

And Chongwe has insisted that President Lungu is not eligible to stand in next year’s general election.

In an interview, Chongwe said there was no doubt that President Lungu misled the former cabinet ministers, against Likando’s advice.

“The Attorney General publicly said that under the current Constitution, when Parliament is dissolved, even Cabinet is dissolved. The issue of ministers working when Parliament is dissolved was a constitutional issue and the Attorney General was right in his advice to the government. But the Minister of Justice at that time Dr (Ngosa) Simbyakula and I think he is the one that advised the President to pay them. And the result was the decision of the court that in fact, at the time when they were working, Parliament was dissolved and they themselves were not members of parliament and therefore they could not be paid. There may have been some attempts to appeal but things like that are not appealable because in the first place the Attorney General had advised that they should not be paid during that particular period of time,” Chongwe said.

“The President misled them. There is no doubt about that. The President acted against the provision of the Constitution which he undertook to protect. And in the face of the advice of his legal advisor. The minister who may have advised the President, Dr Simbyakula, was wrong. But we are all human beings and they say to err is human. If we were not human beings, we would not have made any mistakes at all. We will be pure, as pure as snow. Even President errs. The Head of State is the head of government business and the chief advisor under the constitution, of the Head of State, is our Attorney General. What Kalaluka says as far as the government is concerned is law. What he says must be respected.”

He said even though they were lawyers, Presidents world over took the advice of their Attorney Generals.

“If the President had respected the integrity and advice of the Attorney General Likando Kalaluka, what we are talking about now could never have arisen but the reaction by the President when he was reminded that by allowing these people to work as per constitution… his reaction was that I am a lawyer myself and I know what the constitution says. There were Presidents in other countries who were lawyers, Barack Obama was a lawyer, Bill Clinton was a lawyer but what the Attorney General says and advises the government, the Prime minister or the President cannot say ‘he is the law, the Attorney General is wrong.’ If I was the president, I would follow what the Attorney General says,” he said.

He said if former Cabinet ministers wanted to be reimbursed, they should go to President Lungu.

“I think that the ministers should pay back the money. If they want to be reimbursed, they should go to the person who authorized them to work when the Constitution said no. But that is up to them. As far as members of the public are concerned, the matter ends there. It was wrong for the State to pay their stipends during the time when Parliament was dissolved,”

And Chongwe said President Lungu would be running for a third term if he went ahead to stand in 2021.

“What you should realize is that the President of Zambia was elected to the presidency under a constitution and under that constitution, if the president dies, he was supposed to be succeeded by his deputy but we didn’t have that system at the time because our constitution provided that the vice-president must be a member of parliament, then appointed vice president by the President. Which meant that in the event of the President dying in office, he will not automatically assume the office of President. Under the current constitution, yes but not under that constitution. There is an election to succeed the President and so in 2015 after the death of Michael Sata, there was an election of the President and Mr Lungu stood in that election and won,” said Chongwe.

“And in his case, it meant that he was going to be the President until the end of that Parliament. So in 2016 when the Parliament was dissolved, he stood for the office of President and won. When he won in 2016, that was the second time he had won the office of President. If stands, he would be standing for Presidency by or the third election, third time. What the Constitutional Court said in that last sentence in the judgment, they used the word otiose. Now that word should have been used in terms of the second term. In other words, the issue that was debated before the court was otiose, it was already agreed by the Constitution itself that you cannot stand for the office of Presidency for the third election. Mr Lungu was elected twice as President so he cannot seek election to the office of the President and the matter ends there. There are members of his political party who agree with the interpretation of the constitution as was at the time when Mr Lungu was first elected President when he succeeded the late Mr Sata.”