A PANEL of seven judges of the Constitutional Court will preside over the main matter in which four leaders of the opposition have asked the court to determine whether or not President, Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 Presidential elections.
The seven are; President of the constitutional court, Ms justice Hildah Chibomba, Ms justice Anna Sitali, Ms justice Mungeni Mulenga, Mr justice Enock Mulembe, Professor Margaret Munalula, Mr justice Palan Mulonda and Mr justice Martin Museluke.
When the matter came up for hearing of the main case yesterday, the seven Judges headed by Ms Justice Chibomba took their positions in readiness to hear the matter.
The number of judges who preside over a case is decided administratively done as parties or litigants do not have the power to decide.
Last week, the Constitutional Court dismissed Christian Democratic Party leader, Dan Pule and three others’ application to have the number of judges increased from five to seven saying there was no need for the application.
Dr Pule and others made the application when the court was still handling preliminary issues relating to the case and had not yet gone into the substantive issues of the matter.
However, when the matter came up for hearing of the main petition yesterday, a full bench of seven judges emerged to preside over the case.
The case could, however, not take off because United Party for National Development (UPND) through its lawyers Keith Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri had just filed skeleton arguments in support of the affidavit in opposition after the court granted them leave to file out of time.
Dr Pule’s lawyers asked for an adjournment to enable them study the arguments together with those filed by the Law Association of Zambia on April 19, this year.
In their skeleton of arguments, Stephen Katuka (on behalf of UPND) argued that Mr Lungu was not eligible to seek Presidential office as a candidate in the 2021 Presidential elections as he had already twice held the office of Presidency.
Mr Katuka contended that although a term of office is five years, the argument that Mr Lungu had not previously held office for the full period of five years, as argued by Dr Pule and others, was not ground for the proposition that he would not have twice held office in 2021.
And the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) in its arguments urged the court to dismiss Dr Pule and others’ motion on the grounds that was improperly before the court.
Lawyer representing LAZ, John Sangwa said that the matter should be dismissed because the applicants had no standing in the matter in that they had not demonstrated how they had been personally affected by or interest in Article 106 (3), which limits the number of times one holds the office of President to two terms.
Mr Sangwa said the issue of President Lungu’s eligibility was not ripe for adjudication in that the procedure outlined in Article 52 of the Constitution had not been actuated and Mr Lungu himself had not expressed interest to contest the said election in the manner, place and time stipulated by the Article.
Mr Sangwa argued that the determination of the eligibility of Mr Lungu to contest the election of 2021 was premature in that there was no evidence that he would indeed hold office until August 2021.
The matter was adjourned to May 7, 2018.