UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says President Edgar Lungu should not be trusted with legal advice as proved by the case of ministers’ illegal stay in office and the faulty Bill 10.

In a statement, Wednesday, Katuka said President Lungu’s legal opinions always seemed flawed.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to rely on President Edgar Lungu’s opinion on legal matters because his interpretation of the law has proved to be flawed. In May 2016, Mr Lungu misled some unsuspecting Zambians into believing that cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and provincial ministers could legally remain in office after the dissolution of Parliament prior to that year’s general elections. Although Mr Lungu decided to engage in legal gymnastics to justify his insistence that ministers remain in office, the Zambian people had always understood that ministers cease to hold office immediately parliament is dissolved. Mr Lungu, who is a lawyer, arrogantly told some of us who were challenging this illegality that we did not understand the provisions of the law due to our poor reading culture. Clearly, Mr Lungu misdirected himself when he suggested that Article 7, sub-article 2, which stated that a person who had been appointed to the post of vice-president, minister or deputy minister shall continue to hold that office under the Constitution until that appointment was terminated by the President. He forgot that this provision ceases to operate when Parliament is dissolved,” stated Katuka.

“The latest Constitutional Court pronouncement further reminds us about Mr Lungu’s unnecessary time-consuming and divisive debate which sought to guarantee his stay in power beyond the two-term period as provided by the law. Even the colossal expenditure of public money on the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 was unreasonable. Again, under Mr Lungu’s watchful eye, our friends in the PF arrogantly wanted to chock the country with this obnoxious legislation whose primary desire was to guarantee Mr Lungu’s stay in office beyond his constitutional mandate. Unfortunately, this did not go well for them and they are trying to recover from the loss. Now, the PF’s great leader has embarked on another hollow expedition – the vigorous campaign for his third term even when the constitution does not allow him. It is mischievous for any reasonable person to trust Mr Lungu on legal matters and it is our prayer that he learns from these historic and important outcomes.”

He insisted that President Lungu kept ministers in office in order to ease his campaigns.

“It is not difficult to see that Mr Lungu’s willful breach of constitutional provisions was more aimed at bolstering his own re-election campaign than it would benefit the ministers and the country. We are aware that at the time Mr Lungu was wrongly interpreting the law, most of his ministers were preparing to hand over their ministerial vehicles, houses and other government properties in readiness to vacate office. In fact, Attorney General Likando Kalaluka had advised that ministers and their deputies had ceased to hold their positions. By the way, according to the doctrine of separation of powers, interpretation of the law does not lie within the ambit of the Executive where Lungu belongs. It is a mandate of the Judiciary. However, even as Mr Lungu was parading his ignorance of the law before the full glare of live television cameras, we, in the United Party for National development (UPND), together with the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), understood what the law stated and took the matter to court,” Katuka stated.

“The mandate of cabinet ministers lies in the existence of the National Assembly from which they are appointed. Our argument, of course backed by law, was that once Parliament was dissolved, the appointed ministers ceased to hold those positions. Even our youths in our party who are fresh from college and secondary school understand this fact from their civic education.”

He asked former ministers to clear their debt without delay.

“Now that the Constitutional Court has pronounced itself on this matter and given guidance on how the ministers are going to repay the emoluments they illegally drew during the period they overstayed in office, we demand that the money be paid expeditiously. The more than K4.7 million owed by the former ministers at the instance and direction of Mr Lungu can be redirected to ill-funded social sectors such as education and health. We are closely watching how these funds shall be paid back without further abusing public resources to bail out those still serving in the current Patriotic Front (PF) government,” stated Katuka.