By Andrew Ntewewe YALI President
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JURISDICTION TO HEAR PRESIDNTIAL PETITION AFTER 14 DAYS MAY SOON BE QUESTIONED
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is deeply concerned that it is now seven (7) days after the UPND presidential candidate Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and his running mate, Mr. Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, filed their petition challenging the declaration of Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu as president-elect in the Presidential election held on 11 August, 2016 and no hearing has so far taken place.
We are alive to the fact that the Respondents have raised serious preliminary issues which, procedural, may have to be determined before the petition can be heard and we do not know how many more preliminary issues may be raised in the coming days.
YALI is concerned that, seven (7) after filing, the Court has not even began to hear the substantive matter, a situation which has created anxiety among businesses and citizens supporting both the ruling and opposition parties. The petition was filed in the Constitutional Court on Friday, 19 August, 2016.
Over the last few days, the nation has been informed of the delays by petitioners in serving the petition on the two respondents despite the time limit imposed on the Court by the Constitution itself, within which hearing should commence.
The nation needs to know that the Constitutional Court operates within the realm and limitations imposed by the Constitution; we are concerned therefore that if the 14-day period stipulated for the commencement of hearing ends next week on Friday without the court having commenced hearing the matter. YALI shall not be suprised to see the procedural basis and jurisdiction of the court hearing the matter outside the 14-day being challenged, where some may feel that the matter will, at point, be statute or time-barred from being heard by the Constitutional Court.
As far as YALI is aware, the Attorney General is reported to have been served with the petition on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 and, by law and rules of the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General has 5 days to respond to this petition. The 5-day period ends on Tuesday, 30th August 2016. On the other hand, the petitioners will have 2 days in which to respond to the reply by the Attorney General and will have until September 1, 2016. The 14-day period in which the petition must be heard will also expire on Friday September 2, 2016.
We wonder what will happen to the constitutionality of the 14-day time-frame provided under the Constitution in which the Constitutional Court will have to conduct the hearing from time the petition is filed. Under Article 269 of the Constitution of Zambia, the 14 days include the excluded days of Saturday, Sunday and any holidays.
The rationale behind the total of the twenty one-day period for the filing and hearing of Presidential petition emanates from the fact that aggrieved parties ought to have a clear case presented, in accordance with Order XIV of Constitutional Court Rules, within 7 days from the declaration of presidential election results, and that hearing must commence within 14 days as per provisions of the Constitution.
For many years, Zambians have been very clear in their demand that all legal matters associated with the election of the President, MPs and councillors, should be dealt with expediently and disposed of within a short period of time, hence the 14-day period constitutional provision for hearing any presidential petition.
YALI is of the view, therefore, that after the expiry of the 14-day period imposed by the Constitution for commencement of the hearing, if there is no hearing at all, the inauguration of the President-elect elect must be allowed to proceed. The 21 day waiting period, already is proving too much to bear among all Zambians.