By Kapya Kaoma
The negligibility of the petition before the Constitution Court concerning the eligibility of the Patriotic Front candidate, President Edgar Lungu in forthcoming elections are laughable, except for the harm it may cause to the opposition’s cause after August 12, 2021.
The ConCourt is a public institution and every citizen has the right to take any case to it, hence the petitioner is simply executing his constitutional rights. PF Cadre Kennedy Kamba’s childish kaponya threats against the petitioner are nothing but attempts to worship the big man. We are a democracy and we have the right to seek legal recourse in cases of interest, especially one which centers on the person who would become the most powerful individual in the nation. But is this case worth it?
The petition pertains to whether Mr. Edgar Lungu qualifies to contest the forthcoming election. The case borders on articles that speak to holding the office of, or being sworn in twice as President of Zambia, which is unclear if read in conjunction with other articles of the same Constitution. Mr. Lungu’s one year term in office was due to President Michael Sata’s death, thus he did not serve the minimum of three years required to constitute a full term under the same Constitution. So the PF’s argument is simple: Lungu has one more term to serve hence qualifies to contest the 2021 election. If he does so, however, he would be contesting the third time and should he win, he would serve three terms. This is the petitioner’s objection. Mr. Lungu has contested in, and won two elections–thus he cannot be eligible to contest the forthcoming election. It is this issue the ConCourt must rule on.
I don’t have confidence in the ConCourt as currently constituted; it has too much power and unaccountable. I believe that it cannot be above the Supreme Court of Zambia and that it must be under independent oversight. Despite my misgivings, it would take a tanker of Kachasu for the petitioner to force the ConCourt to block Lungu from contesting the election. The “poorly worded” and “copy and paste” Constitution is simply unclear even to the petitioner himself. We had an opportunity to amend it but we failed because of political interests. The countless flaws in the Constitution are set to bite us again and again. We wasted many years arguing about petty issues rather than straightening it. I understand the many flaws that characterized the PF driven Constitution, but we ended up with the very document that is self-contradictory and unclear. If we honored the senseless Grade 12 Certificate requirement, shouldn’t we do the same on other issues?
With merely two months to go before the election, I don’t understand the strategic goal of this petition. If the petitioner thinks he is doing damage to PF, the opposite is true. My worry is that the Constitution Court may be needed in case of legitimate petitions after the elections. Since the world would have been used to the ConCourt ruling against “opposition” challenges, Aesop’s Fable of “the boy who cried wolf” would become a bitter pill to swallow after August 12.
Besides, messaging is key in competitive politics. Many opposition cadres are celebrating the petitioner; the truth is these petty petitions are sending a poor message of desperation. It is simply “trumpian” and insane to repeat the same failed strategy over and over. The petitioner’s credibility on blocking Lungu from contesting in this election has suffered setbacks before, so another dismissal will only provide further political capital to PF. Yes, the petitioner is not running against Lungu, but these actions are perceived as the opposition’s untold fear of Lungu in the forthcoming election. Let’s face it–the battle is already set and the opposition can easily stop Lungu through the ballot, and not through a group of unelected people in ugly colonial wigs! Leave the ConCourt for when you need it! “14 days” is still unresolved.