The Patriotic Front has taken issue with Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel for saying that President Edgar Lungu does not qualify to contest the 2021 general elections because he has already been elected into office twice, as prescribed in the Republican Constitution. Those disagreeing with this point from the ruling party are basing their arguments on the ruling of the Constitutional Court in the case of Danny Pule and others who were seeking an interpretation of the law.
Now, this is an issue that we have previously written about, and in our editorial opinion on this topic, we reminded our readers that the Constitutional Court never pronounced President Lungu eligible to stand in 2021. The court could not have done so when President Lungu was not party to the proceedings in that Danny Pule case. Therefore, the PF can search the whole judiciary and turn it upside down if they wish, but they will never find any judgment which declares the incumbent Head of State as a qualified candidate for the 2021 race.
Our point here is that people don’t need to listen to John Sangwa. They can forget about his interpretation and pick up the Constitution of Zambia to read for themselves what the law says. Since Mr Davies Mwila considers State Counsel Sangwa a dull lawyer who can’t read and understand the law, let the PF Secretary General’s educated skopodonono educate us by pointing to the provision which says Lungu qualifies. Mr Mwila and other members of his ‘parte’ must not argue without citing the law. We want to see which law they will use to field President Lungu.
Our argument is based on the following passage of the Constitution:
Article 106. TERM OF OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT
(1) The term of office for a President is five years which shall run concurrently with the term of Parliament, except that the
term of office of President shall expire when the President-elect assumes office in accordance with Article 105.
(2) A President shall hold office from the date the President-elect is sworn into office and ending on the date the next President-elect is sworn into office.
(3) A person who has twice held office as President is not eligible for election as President.
It is very important to note that President Lungu has never been a running mate, and has never been Vice-President of Zambia. Therefore, he did not assume Office of the President (without an election) to finish a term of a deceased President. He was elected by the people of Zambia in 2015 and in 2016 (twice), therefore he cannot stand again. Since Kaunda, before the Constitution was amended in 1991, there is no President in Zambia who has been elected into office three times. President Lungu wants to be the first one, but which law will he use?
The law is clear, the humble leader cannot stand in 2021, unless he puts a ‘gun’ to the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s head. Like we said, the PF doesn’t need to listen to Sangwa, they can read. If they are lazy to read, at least they can listen to another State Counsel who is a friend of the President, in the name of Wynter Kabimba ODS. The former Minister of Justice has nothing against the incumbent President, but he has made it clear that Mr Lungu doesn’t qualify. He has added that if he insists and is allowed to stand, and by some miracle he wins, President Lungu will be an illegitimate president.
At this juncture, we would like to join Mr Brebner Changala in delivering some free and friendly advice to the ruling Patriotic Front – it is time they started looking for a candidate who qualifies to stand in 2021. If they ignore this message in the hope that they will find a way of manipulating the Constitution, they will be thrown into disarray when the Electoral Commission of Zambia rejects the nomination papers. President Lungu must start preparing a successor within PF. We believe that there are a lot of capable men and women inside and outside Cabinet or the Central Committee who can take over the party from him. He must not impose himself against the law. When we told them to find a Mwanawasa from within, they said we were fighting Lungu.
If the PF relies on the interpretation by President Lungu himself, surely, they must learn by now that this lawyer is the most untrustworthy legal counsel around. How many times has this lawyer misled his party and Cabinet? We know he has been going round telling people that he will stand in 2021 and even in 2026, but that’s just how confident he speaks even when he has no clue what he is talking about. Remember on ministers’ stay in office after the dissolution of parliament, he said “I am a senior lawyer with many years of experience, ministers cannot leave office until they hand over power to the next Cabinet”. Where has that confident talk left him in that matter? Anyone can justifiably call him a liar today!
What President Lungu needs to do to get out of this crisis is simply remove the term limit for the President. Once he does that, he will have no more headache. Dictators have to be decisive, you can’t make progress as a dictator if you choose to remain under the skin of a democrat because there will be so many legal impediments. Our Constitution in Zambia is too democratic for a dictator to govern with. For example, the PF says President Lungu is the sole candidate for the ‘parte’ but the national Constitution says there is no such thing! A candidate of any political party taking part in the presidential election must have been first democratically elected at the party primaries. That’s a problem already for PF and that’s what we mean when we say our laws are not user-friendly for a dictator, they need to be first twisted. So, if President Lungu would like to come out like his friends Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and Pierre Nkurunziza, he should simply throw out the current Constitution and adopt all his wishes as the new law.