THE claim that the opposition has hired a consortium of lawyers to bribe Constitutional Court judges in a bid to rule against President Edgar Lungu’s eligibility is not only senseless, but it is also unresearched. If State House believes a fraction of this narrative, then it means the presidency is being fed with false intelligence. If the Patriotic Front and State House had credible sources of intelligence, they would be fully aware that it is not in the best interest of the opposition UPND to face another candidate in August, other than Mr Lungu.
No one needs to take our word for it. Whoever doubts this must ask the simple question; when and where have you heard a UPND official complaining that Mr Lungu doesn’t qualify to stand. When did you ever hear the UPND president demanding that Lungu must be stopped from contesting the August elections? The truth is that the UPND is dying to face Mr Lungu because according to them, this is the weakest candidate the PF can adopt. Mr Lungu is responsible for the state of the economy and he is the most scandal-riddled candidate to contest elections. The UPND president has, in fact, on a number of occasions come out on the open to declare that he wants to face Mr Lungu this August. So it defeats all logic that the UPND would want their preferred opponent disqualified.
But this is not about who is a weak opponent or who is a strong candidate, this is about the law. We need to look at Mr Lungu’s eligibility without being persuaded by his prospects of winning or losing the August election. Mr Lungu should not be disqualified because he is a threat to the UPND and the opposition, but because the law prohibits him from standing for a third time. On the other hand, Mr Lungu should not be allowed to stand because he is best placed to defeat the opposition, but because the law allows him to stand. This is why we would like the issue of his eligibility to be taken back to court so that we can have a clear ruling. This brings us to the wise debate from PF lawyer Milingo Lungu.
MILINGO Lungu: “The court didn’t declare him eligible, there is no way the court would have declared him eligible because some criteria is only satisfied on nomination day. But in so far as the criteria of whether or not he has served two terms, the Constitutional Court answered that to say that this term which he is serving now is only first term. So if Mr Sangwa has got other grounds to challenge on other than the issue of two terms, obviously the court will hear him. If he finds out for example that the President is not a Zambian I am sure they can take the challenge based on that but what he can’t do is to go back to court on the issue of whether he has served two terms or not. I think that will be abuse of the court process. Eligibility is a criteria, like a checklist, for you to be eligible you have to be 35 years old, you should not be bankrupt, you should not be serving a sentence. Some of the criteria have to be met before nomination day, some of the criteria is only met on nomination day.”
This, in our view, is the most sensible argument that anyone affiliated to the PF has ever offered. There is no problem with anyone who loves Mr Lungu to claim that he qualifies for the August election. There is nothing wrong with those who are eating with Mr Lungu to suggest that he has not served two terms. The only problem comes in when they claim that the Constitutional Court already declared him eligible. This is a lie and everybody, including Mr Lungu himself knows it.
This is why Mr Milingo’s argument makes interesting reading. We agree with him totally that the Constitutional Court could not have declared Mr Lungu eligible because he was not before court. This is what we have been singing about. We also agree with him that those who want to challenge the nomination of the incumbent, like State Counsel John Sangwa, are free to do so. The PF must let people like Milingo speak more often because they make more sense than those who are on TV every day. In fact, we would like to appeal to Mr Milingo to try and reason with his fellow party members to look at this debate from his point of view.