DEFENCE Minister Davies Chama has vowed that no one will stop President Edgar Lungu from contesting the August 2021 elections, saying “unqualified, dull lawyers” like State Counsel John Sangwa must stop wasting their time trying to challenge the PF candidate.
But Sangwa says he will not respond to personal attacks from the minister, adding that Chama’s statement boarders on lawlessness as it suggests that the party in power does not recognise the court system.
Meanwhile State House says Zambians interested in President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility should wait for the imminent election, as no further comment on his decision to stand will be made because the subject matter has been exhausted.
On Monday, Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel cautioned that the moment President Lungu filed in his nomination to contest the August elections, he would have committed treason by attempting to seize power through unlawful means because he did not qualify.
“The Constitution clearly gives people the right to challenge the eligibility of those offering themselves for leadership, it is in the constitution. You can’t force a candidate on the people, a candidate who doesn’t qualify by law. That is treason! It’s treason because you are trying to seize power by unlawful means. That is why I am making that point that until you repeal Article 106(3), the imposition of Lungu as a candidate is Treason. If you want him to qualify, repeal article 106(3). In fact the position is that the moment Mr Lungu files his nomination, he will have made a false declaration to say he qualifies when in fact not. That is what will trigger the petition and that is what will make him commit treason,” said Sangwa, responding to Lubinda who had earlier told Parliament that challenging Lungu eligibility would threaten the country’s peace.
Reacting to the statement, Chama, who is also PF deputy national chairperson, said Sangwa was a “cantankerous and dull lawyer” because he had a chance to argue his case on a matter that has been settled but did not do so.
He vowed that no one would stop Lungu from contesting the elections, further challenging anyone doubting his statement to a bet.
“President Lungu is standing, no one can stop it. He is constitutionally eligible. So, those who want to waste their time and energy and start trying to become law professors using the wrong way, I think he (Sangwa) must go back to school! We don’t even know which law schools these people went to and the type of education that they acquired through the years. He is even saying that, ‘it is tantamount to treason,’ what type of a dull lawyer is he? I think let us not waste time on things that don’t make sense. As PF, we don’t want to be answering to these useless discussions! We have stated our position. We can bet on it, President Lungu is standing,” vowed Chama.
he said the ruling party was not worried that anyone would declare him ineligible.
“We are not even worried; he is not going to be disqualified. Why are they worried about President Lungu standing? He is not even a member of the party, he is just a cantankerous lawyer trying to find relevance in this useless and stale topic! I think we have better things to talk about. Mwebe (tell) Sangwa that if he wants to stand, let him put his papers and stand. He has no better things to do? We don’t even lose sleep about these issues. I don’t know why people lose sleep over this. He went to court and he was part of the lawyers who argued, why didn’t he put his argument? He put up his argument, he lost, but he is still on it.”
And in a brief interview, President Lungu Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe said the eligibility topic had been exhausted.
Asked if the President was moved by sentiments that standing again would amount to treason, Chipampe remained tight-lipped, insisting that Zambians would have to wait until polling day approached, as the topical subject matter had been exhausted.
“My comment is that this topic has been exhausted. The discussion has been exhaustive; you can’t be talking about the same things! Let us wait until election time reaches,” said Chipampe.
In a separate interview, a calm Sangwa laughed at attacks on his academic qualifications before challenging the PF to meet him back in court.
“First of all, I don’t respond to personal attack and insults. I would rather that we stick to issues. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that we are still a country of laws. So you cannot be eligible because you have declared yourself to be eligible, you are eligible if the law determines that you are. If the PF is convinced that Mr Lungu is eligible then we should stop attacking judges and accusing them of possible corruption. We must also stop threatening people that challenging Mr Lungu will lead to chaos in the country. Following the low should never lead to chaos. It is when people act outside the law that creates chaos,” he said.
“That being said, we now need to wait for the nomination to happen. There is a law in place and we have to follow that law. It still remains a fact that trying to impose a candidate who does not qualify to stand is still treason. You are doing violence to the Constitution you are trying to undermine the Constitution. To say that no one can stop the President and you can even bet on that, that is lawlessness. It is irresponsible for someone to say that because that is a contested issue and we have a system in place to resolve that contention. In this case, the final arbiter will be the court. It is the law that determines who qualifies, who stands and who does not stand. It does not show respect for the rule of law to say ‘no one can stop our candidate’, you can’t make such a statement. And that is where the aspect of treason comes in. It means you are saying you don’t care what the court will say because eve the curt cannot stop your candidate. Anyone who respects the rule of law cannot say that. Even me, I have not said I will stop him, I have said this is a contested issue and when Mr Lungu files his nomination, we will move the court to adjudicate on that.””
Regarding attacks on his qualifications, Sangwa said if he is a dull lawyer, the PF must not worry about his petition against President Lungu.
“I will not dignify attacks on my competence and qualifications as a lawyer. My academic qualifications are a matter of public record and secondly my professional accomplishment are also a matter of public record. If someone believes that I am a dull lawyer and ill-qualified, then the petition will be a walkover for them and they should not worry. Tell them that if I am a dull lawyer, then they should not worry about a petition prepared by a dull lawyer. The point is that if they are that confident, they must stop attacking the judges. Let’s wait for nomination and see what the court will say,” said Sangwa.