The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the International Commission of Jurists, the Judges for Judges Association, the Lawyers’ Rights Watch of Canada and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre are astounded by the contents of the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019.
As if the cry of the citizens of Zambia, the civil society, the church and local constitution experts was not enough, our government last Friday went ahead to table the rejected Bill in Parliament for First Reading. This has caused widespread worry and anxiety, attracting the voice of the international legal community. What these seven international organisations are saying is that the provisions in this Bill will leave the Constitution of Zambia more hanging than it has already been. They are warning that if it is enacted in its current state, it will fall below the International Bar Association standards.
But this is what the PF actually wants. They don’t want a Constitution which is clear or rigid. They want a Constitution which is manipulatable, one which they can tell what to do, not one which tells them how to govern. They thrive on constitution lacunas. In fact, even where the law is clear, they bend the rules to suit their agenda. This has been the habit of the governing party.
When a government rushes to enact laws that fail to stand the test of time, know that they have ill intentions. When a government repeals the same laws it enacted and replaces them with another set of rejected clauses, know that they have bad intentions. When it comes to the Constitution, it must be known by every citizen of this country that the Patriotic Front is not here to govern us, it is here to govern itself and to serve its own interests.
But that is only one part of abuse of the law by the PF. We would like our readers to see the other methods the PF has been employing to harm citizens using the law. Educated legal technocrats call it “Lawfare”, a concept developed by Americans to fight terrorist organisations without the use of force. Here in Zambia, the government has adopted the concept to destroy political opponents and private companies as if they were terrorists.
For example, we have observed a consistent pattern or concept by this government and its hired non-state actors whereby they have developed an instrumental use of legal tools to achieve the same or similar benefits as those traditionally sought after by dictators.
They have turned the law into a predator preying on those who threaten their continued stay in power. They are using the law to find imaginary charges against their opponents. Even when they know that their charges are so flimsy and can’t stand in any court of law, they press on because their intention is simply to keep their prey busy in court, or in detention.
This is what they did on Mr Hakainde Hichilema in the treason case. It is the same thing they did on Mr Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba and they continue to do this to Mr Chishimba Kambwili and recently on Dr Fred M’membe whose house in Chinsali is faced with seizure on grounds that it is proceeds of crime. They use the same mechanism on private companies which they want to destroy.
The system is making these individuals and private companies toil around with legal bills while wasting time fighting flimsy charges in court. Even when you win the case, it is the State to pay or the innocent taxpayers, while those who schemed your downfall have no cost at all. This is what this government is doing – using the law to destroy a nation for selfish benefits. They don’t want anyone to challenge their actions.
We have seen in the past where Kambwili and Gary Nkombo went to court seeking to join a Presidential impeachment case, but their application for a joinder was thrown out with huge costs. And then a lawyer in the name of Mr Lewis Mosho started chasing after them to pay K5 million just for making that application to join a matter. The idea is to make people afraid of going to court, fearing that they would incur costs. These are the non-state actors whom the PF regime has recruited to prey on political opponents.
What is happening in this country is very sad because the judiciary has also been employed to impair justice. We are seeing a lot of thuggery being perpetrated by the justice system itself. When a court matter reaches a point where the outcome is almost certain against the State, you see a judge recusing himself or herself and the next judge hearing the matter goes on a parallel path. This is dangerous for a democracy.
We should not allow the executive to overstretch its authority over the judiciary in a manner that the Patriotic Front has done. This defeats the principle of separation of powers. We should not allow the Edgar Lungu-led executive to dictate the legislation of bad laws in the National Assembly as if this is a One Party State.
This deadly scheme by the system to manipulate the outcome of the Constitution Amendment Bill must be fought by all well meaning Zambians. We know that it is very complicated for citizens who are watching from a distance to know that their government is up to no good; so let the intellectuals help in mobilizing public awareness. We are under siege as a country, but unfortunately, we do not seem to have the capacity to collectively emancipate ourselves from this evil.
We are therefore glad that this consortium of international law associations has come together to voice out on what is happening in Zambia. Indeed we need international support to let the whole world know what the PF is doing to our Constitution. The PF must be known for what they are; they are mafias who are here to steal, kill and destroy. Silelo bayamba ba pompwe, they have been doing this for a long time!