HIgh Court
HIgh Court

The intelligent article titled, “Munali and Lusaka Central: the appeal cases that reveal a court system in crisis” makes an interesting reading. It brings out issues, myths and conspiracy theories worth thinking about. It appears the nation’s anxiety has been raised over the long overdue decision in the Munali and Lusaka Central Parliamentary petitions by our Constitutional Court. In the final analysis, I make a reflection on the circumstances under which the two members of Parliament can be barred from re-contesting their seats if, by any chance, those seats are nullified. People should not be excited as yet in what may happen to any MP whose seat is nullified.

First comrade Sishuwa raises two issues pertaining to hearing and disposal of cases for Munali and Lusaka Central held by Ministers, Hon. Nkandu Luo, MP and Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe, MP respectively by asserting that (1) the Constitution has gaps in its failure to set the time for hearing the case but also that (2) the procedure of appealing cases from the High Court to the Constitutional Court is a fundamental error in law.

Much as I agree with him on the first point that we should have set the time limit for disposal of appeals, I don’t agree with him on his second point that a fundamental error in law was made where an appeal in a Parliamentary petition lies to the Constitutional Court.

First, we ought to understand that the election of Councillors, MPs and President is a constitutional issue set by Article 47 of the Constitution of Zambia.

So while the local government petitions are heard by a Local Government Elections Tribunal and Parliamentary petitions are heard by the High Court as per Articles 159 and 73, respectively, the question of election of councillors, MPs and President, being a constitutional matter is required to be determined by the Constitutional Court.

This is fortified by provisions of Article 1(5) which states:

“1(5) A matter relating to this Constitution shall be heard by the Constitutional Court”.

To give the Supreme Court jurisdiction to hear a constitutional issue of electing councillors or an MP thorough an appeal from a Court of Appeal would have raised a constitutional problem on jurisdiction of courts.

By a similar reason above, the Court of appeal is estopped from hearing an appeal on a constitutional issue raised in any court below. The provisions of Article 128 (2) which read:

“128 (2) Subject to Article 28 (2), where a question relating to this Constitution arises in a court, the person presiding in that court shall refer the question to the Constitutional Court”

The authorities above must settle the question raised as to the alleged fundamental errors in law.Needless to mention that if we had a situation where a Local Government petition had to start from a Tribunal to the High Court and moved to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court or constitutional court, how long would it really take to settle the petition? Wouldn’t the same people be accusing President Lungu and his Patriotic Front party, even more, that they are the ones delaying the disposal of these petitions?

On the issue of the petitions having taken long, comrade Sishuwa, appears to mix facts with both some mythical conclusion based on the conspiracy theory in which he seem to allege that the PF appear to have a hand in handling of appeals by the Constitutional Court.

Indeed, it is a good call by comrade Sishuwa that we must have timeframe for hearing these appeals by the ConCourt. However, issues that need to be pointed out and require our careful and sober reflection here is the need for this final court of appeal to arrive at a good, just and acceptable conclusion based on facts that were adduced before the trial court and also based on careful understanding of the new law that governs nullification of an election.

First, I seek to remind Zambians that our law entirely places the handling of a client’s case on advocates and if lawyers don’t exercise due diligence, urgency and vigilance, the courts can do only as much to remind lawyers that it won’t tolerate delays.

This is articulated in Rule 36 of The Legal Practitioners’ Practice Rules, 2002, Statutory Instrument No. 51) as quoted below:

“36. A practitioner when conducting proceedings at Court:

(a) Shall be personally responsible for the conduct and presentation of the client’s case and shall exercise personal judgment upon the substance and Purpose of statements made and question asked;

(b) shall ensure that the court is informed of all relevant decisions and legislative provisions of which the practitioner is aware whether the effective is favourable or unfavourable towards the contention for which the practitioner argues and shall bring any procedural irregularity to the attention of the court during the hearing and not reserve such matter to be raised on appeal”

From this Rule, one should easily tell about who and what could have been behind the failure by the Constitutional Court hearing the 2016 Presidential Petition of one Hakainde Hichilema and Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba. Yes, the Court had its own inconsistencies in interpreting the law and giving directions but that does not absolve the petitioners’ advocates from sharing in the blame by failing to handle their client’s petition. As officers of the Court, did they help the Court, as required by Rule 36(b), to read the 14 days correctly?

I know this is a bitter pill for most of my UPND friends and I don’t mind being insulted for bringing this out, but once some of them sober up, they get to realise it was the primary problem of their lawyers who failed to take charge of their client’s petition while the Court’s problem was a secondary one.

I always laugh when my best friend tells me, “for lawyers, the more time one spends on a client’s case, the better the balance sheet at the law firm.”

Secondly, it must be realised that the ConCourt decision in all appeals from electoral petition has far-reaching implication where an MP whose seat falls vacant by disqualification, as a result of a decision of the Constitutional Court, is not eligible to contest an election or hold public office by operation of Article 72(2)(h) as read with Article 72(4).

In light of the weight such a ConCourt decision carries, some myth and conspiracy theories must be discarded in our analysis of how the court handles these appeals. It is true that our Constitution, in Article 118 (2)(b), require that justice is not delayed. This principle require a careful balance found in Article 118 (2)(a) which states that “justice shall be done to all, without discrimination”

In doing justice to all, especially making decisions that will have an effect on the future of MPs in question to serve their country either in Parliament or public service, it is important that decisions are not hurriedly made but also that even the person being barred must appreciate the decision that barred them from serving again.

Finally and most controversial of this topic would be explore the legal discourse on the correct meaning of Article 72(2)(h) as read with Article 72(4).

In part, these articles read:

“72(2)(h): The office of Member of Parliament becomes vacant if the member is disqualified as a result of a decision of the Constitutional Court” 

“72(4)A person who causes a vacancy in the National Assembly due to the reasons specified under clause (2)(h) shall not, during the term of that Parliament-

(a) be eligible to contest an election; or

(b) hold public office.”

The plain reading of these articles suggest that once a seat is nullified, the person holding the seat is not eligible to stand and to be appointed to public office. However, there is a second meaning, which I think is more correct to these two articles.

These articles are different on the following grounds. The first one talks about how a member vacates his or her seat while the second one talks about what happens to the person who causes vacancy based on the decision of the ConCourt.

It is possible that the Court may nullify an election, say in Munali Constituency, based on the violence of supporters which made the election to fail the test of being free and fair but at the same time exonerate the incumbent as not having been the cause of the violence. This would fail the test of “A person who causes vacancy…”

I submit that for any Member of Parliament to come under the ambit of Article 72 (4), it would require the Constitutional Court pronounce itself that indeed, the incumbent is that “person who caused the vacancy” thereby going beyond the mere nullification of a seat to making a declaration that a member is “disqualified”. A vacancy caused by any other reason such as “other persons e.g. cadres involved in political violence” would not bar or stop an MP from contesting elections or getting an appointment to public office.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent any institution I may be associated with and neither is it meant to offer a legal opinion. Those seeking a legal opinion can contact the Law Association of Zambia, which is an authority of legal matters)

By Isaac Mwanza

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    • Where is Sishuwa Sishuwa’s article to which Isaac Mwanza is responding? LT, publish it also so that we compare and make up our own judgements. If you are going to publish a response, then also publish the original article. That’s what l learnt in my journalism class at Hone.


  1. The court and justice system in zambia is a mess. This is a disgrace considering that lungu is a lawyer…..this is like having a president with a background as an educator and the education system gets messed up…..this is an indictment of the moral bankruptcy and corruption of lungu in his personal and professional life….put simply lungu is a corrupt thief…..he was barred by LAZ for fraud, not by coincidence , lungu is a crook.

    Infact all the violence and lawlessness shown by PF caders rats are directed by lungu through kapoyongo……even those fires sweeping Zambia were the work if kapoyongo and lungu to justifiy oppression and 42/42….


  2. Quoting a constitution that was framed to suit certain individuals and an organisation beats logic Isaac. We can go on all day talking about what the constitution says but it still won`t address the issues at hand. It`s a no brainier that the con-court is meant to adjudicate on matters relating to interpretation of the law and not to try individual suspected to have broken the law. A duplication with the supreme court. This court is meant to be the final voice of what the law is actually saying in cases of several interpretation. In my opinion, this whole arrangement to try cases of election nature was enacted to suit certain individuals which is exactly what is going on. Suppose we were to do away with the Con-court, what would stop the supreme court to hear such cases and better still…


  3. On Computation of time Article 269 OF THE CONSTITUTION may guide
    (a) a period of days from the happening of an event or the
    doing of an act shall be considered to be exclusive of
    the day on which the event happens or the act is done;
    (b) if the last day of the period is a Saturday, Sunday or public
    holiday (“excluded day”), the period shall include the
    next day;
    and coming to Article 72(4),


  4. Many normal people understand what Mr Mwanza is saying on the petition.The lawyers for the UPND messed up their client and deserted him when they realized he was BSing.


  5. Those lawyers mesed up big tym. This guy, must acknowledge, is exceedingly intelligent. So even if Nkandu Luo loses seat, she may contest it afterall if she isn’t cause for disqualification. Our laws re a mess guys.


  6. Been a while since i read something soberly written and pretty education. Most times writes of such articles tend to peddle their own personal agendas which can easily be traced to who their sponsors are. This one has tried to remain educative, mature, sober and balanced. It would be nice, though, to read what Sishuwa wrote in the first place. Also, who is this author. Ba LT please give more data about him.


  7. Lunatic analysis, the judges are there to offer guidance so you can’t blame lawyers especially in a country like our where judges take advantage of areas in our constitution that are not clear to contradict themselves. The tapes are there and the so called unconstitutional judges want to behave like they have no eyes to see or brains to make their own determination


  8. Well written Mr. Mwanza. It has to be proved by the plaintiff that Professor Nkandu Luo instigated the violence in Munali for her not to be eligible to stand again if her seat is nullified. It is not just law but plain commonsense and logic. You do not punish somebody for something they did not do.


  9. Profession Luo is finally getting exonerated by people that mean well and not biased. Her lawyers are letting her down though and must be discarded because she will lose a case she ain’t supposed to lose at all. She certainly wasnt in the wrong


  10. She knew and sent the criminals that conducted the attack . We are all aware of proxy warfare whereby you deny their existence .


  11. Good article. In addition, there other issues that need to be looked at for example whether dress code and utterances can be relied upon as confirmation of authentic membership to an organization. For instance is it possible that a member for organization ‘X’ can use regalia and slogans for organization ‘Y’ and engage in malpractice to hide their real identity? Has there been instances in this country where people have used identities of others to commit a crime or get favors from unsuspecting people? So, the issue must be thoroughly and properly dissected so that no one is unfairly treated.



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