For the first time in the history of Zambia’s multi party democracy, we have an incumbent President who is now in pole position to be sworn in for the third time, after already holding office twice. This is not because the Constitutional Court has ruled that Mr Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 general elections, but because it refused to say the man is NOT eligible – thereby allowing him to proceed without a court send-off.
To put it more explicitly to our readers, the Constitutional Court was asked to determine if the law allows Mr Lungu to seek office again in the next election, but they left that to the citizens to continue speculating so that they can make their own judgments, while the court invoked fresh confusion with the counting of his days in office.
And just like they left everyone confused by failing to explain how they arrived at the 14 days counted during the presidential election petition, this Constitutional Court has come back to tell the people of Zambia that President Lungu’s rule between January 2015 and August 2016 doesn’t count as a term, without explaining why the man was entitled to gratuity.
Suddenly, the Constitutional Court has forgotten that it was during the same presidential term that they have deleted from the scene when Mr Lungu announced in Parliament that he was forfeiting his Presidential retirement house, as part of the new law for all future Presidents. When critics reminded him that his 18 months in office did not amount to a term in the first place for him to claim a house, let alone forfeit it, the then ‘transition’ President made it clear that he was entitled to not only the house, but all accompanying gratuity, because he had been sworn in as Head of State. Today, we are told to discount all that and start counting afresh. We are not surprised.
In fact, we are looking at the celebrations in the PF camp and we can’t help congratulating them for winning a court case in which they sued themselves. It somehow reminds us of a television episode in which Mr Bean took himself to a birthday dinner and shocked himself with a birthday card from his own jacket.
Just like in that Mr Bean’s comedy, it is only the PF who are shocked with the ruling. Everyone else is actually surprised that they are shocked, because people still remember that the PF Secretary General told News Diggers on record four months ago, that Mr Lungu was going to be the PF candidate in 2021 regardless of the Constitutional Court’s decision. So if the PF’s surprise from this court’s decision looks genuine, we can only say that their acting deserves an award.
To be honest, this Constitutional Court is very amusing . Hearing a judge from this court warn citizens that it was going to jail anyone found in contempt by commenting on its undetermined matters made us feel very insulted.
How can they threaten contempt charges on judgment day when all along President Lungu has been warning them of consequences if they disqualified him from the 2021 race? Where were they? If that was not contempt, which contempt are they looking for? This only goes to show that these judges ruled in favour of Mr Lungu in fear of committing contempt of the Presidency.
But the problem doesn’t start with the judges; it actually just simply ends with them. The problem is that we have a Constitution which everyone agrees is flawed and laced with inconsistencies and contradictions, but we continue using it without developing an urgent sense to fix the problem. Under normal circumstances, this is what we would have been advocating for – to immediately reconcile the lacunas in the country’s Supreme law in the interest of justice.
But of what value is a good Constitution in a country where a poor citizen gets a six-year prison sentence for alleging that there is corruption among judges, and a rich President gets an extra five-year term in office for threatening judges with war if they rule against him? We all know that the fear of Lungu is the beginning of wealth.
Anyway, once again, we wish PF all the posterity as they now embark on perfecting the rigging strategy ahead of the 2021 general elections. To the UPND, we recall Mr Hichilema saying he desperately hoped the PF doesn’t change a candidate so he can defeats him effortlessly. Well, they say be careful what you wish for – there you have him!