“When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law,” that is what French economist and writer Federec Bastiat teaches us.
Finally, President Edgar Lungu on the Constitutional Court ruling, says that Ministers must pay back money they received illegally, and further says through his press aide, that the Constitutional Court has corrected him and he won’t interfere. But in the same sentence, we are further told that the Head of State is consulting technocrats on way forward since some ministers have refused to pay back because they provided a service.
Again we ask; where in this entire world would a Constitutional Court ruling be subject to further discussions or consultations, and let alone by a President? The Constitutional Court, in simple English ruled that Ministers must pay back money, it never rule that the ministers must be given “terms” to payback or as guided by the Head of State, so what is President Lungu going to discuss with the technocrats?
This in itself is interference by the Executive on Judiciary matters. Why is President Lungu interfering in a court decision? Clearly, President Lungu is ashamed of the bad legal advice he gave to his Ministers that it was “legal” to hold office after dissolution of Parliament.
We recall that in May 2016, before departing for President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration, President Lungu said “the Constitution is very clear when it states that current ministers have to hand over to the new ministers after the next elections”. The President went further to say that “in spite of the law being clear on the matter at hand, he would be fine with whatever the Courts would determine regarding the status of ministers.
“Anyway since the matter will become a Court issue, the Courts will determine but for now the Cabinet will remain. If they rule against us fine, if they rule in our favour fine, but the writing is there, same as the Grade 12 thing, its democracy”, guided President Lungu. So why has it unsettled him that the court has ruled against him? It’s shame that is consuming him. He wishes the ground can swallow him on this matter and it is his wish that ministers refuse to pay so that his ill interpretation of the law doesn’t totally insult his intelligence.
Why do we say this? Harry Kalaba, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs who benefited from illegal salaries and benefits has previously said he wants to immediately pay back and had asked the Secretary to the Cabinet to let him know how much money he owed. Why has the Secretary to the Cabinet been non-responsive? The Zambian public is owed an explanation and needs to know why government is not interested in collecting the money from Mr Kalaba.
Given Lubinda, our Justice Minister has stated that he will not comply with the judgment of the Constitutional Court in the case of LAZ vs Ngosa Simbyakula and others, and suddenly the President is talking, clearly cheering the ministers not to pay the money until his consultations with the so-called technocrats is done. This is a shame! Rule of law demands that any decision of a court of law must be obeyed by all parties affected by it.
What has happened to Honourable Lubinda? Previously, the Justice Minister said it would be premature to refund any money to the treasury before the courts concluded the matter. Further, Lubinda is on record having said that the former and serving ministers were aware of their rights and would abide by the final decision of the court and that as Minister of Justice it was his individual and constitutional responsibility to uphold the law and defend the Constitution of Zambia. How can any reasonable person reconcile these contradicting statements from one mouth?
The State is setting a very bad example in the endeavor to promote rule of law. In July 2019, President Lungu said “if there is someone who respects the law in this country I am number one because I am a lawyer”. Really Mr Lungu? Where is your respect for the law?
Anyway, history must be laughing at us for believing in this lawyer who is now ruling the country. Is it not just in 2010 when Mr Lungu had his law practicing license suspended by the Law Association of Zambia for professional misconduct? Yes it is! On 16th April 2009, the Legal Practitioners Committee of LAZ received a complaint of Edgar Lungu having stolen a clients’ money. These are facts! So what kind or a lawyer is President Lungu?
We are reminded by Chief Justice Irene Mambilima’s statement in April 2018, when she said “a dishonest lawyer is a disgraced lawyer and the profession has no place for such a lawyer”.
In our view, the President of Zambia is a disgraced lawyer because he is offering dishonest legal counsel. He must not be trusted and his efforts to protect the Constitution are nothing but a mockery. It feels like we are being ruled by a conman who runs away from his responsibilities when a scam is exposed.