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Preparation for the Presidential Petition should have been reduced to just two days-Peter Sinkamba

Feature Politics Preparation for the Presidential Petition should have been reduced to just two...

Green party President Peter Sinkamba has said that the preparation and serving of the petition should have been reduced to a maximum of two days.

In a statement to the media, reacting to the new rules for the Constitutional Court to govern petitions in the upcoming general elections slated for 12 August 2021, Mr. Sinkaba said that two days would have been enough considering that the petitioners have seven (7) days provided for in the Constitution within which to make up their mind.

“Allocating an additional five (5) days after the lapse of the said seven days gives the petitioners undue advantage in that they have a total of twelve (12) days in which to prepare their cases, while the respondents merely have four (4) days, ” he said.

Below is the full statement

MORE ISSUES NEEDED TO HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED IN THE NEW CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES BEFORE THE AUGUST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

As the Green Party, we commend the Chief Justice for the promulgation of the new rules for the Constitutional Court to govern petitions in the upcoming general elections slated for 12 August 2021. By and large, the new rules have addressed the timeframes within which the petitioners must serve the petitions on the respondents; the timeframes within which the respondents have to answer; and the timeframes within which the petitioners have to answer to the respondents.

The rules imply that petitioners now have five (6) days in which to prepare and serve their petitions and answer the petitioners (four (4) days from the date of filing of the petition, plus one (1) extra one for substituted service in the event that the petitioners are unable to serve the petition on to the respondent after lapse of 4 days; and one (1) additional day to file an answer to respondents). The rules also imply that the respondents have four (4) days in which to file the answer and serve the petitioner. Effectively, this means that from the fourteen (14) days provided by the Constitution to hear and determine presidential petitions, ten (10) days have been reserved for paperwork i.e. filing of petitions, responding to documents, and service of documents. This leaves four (4) days only in which to hear preliminary applications, consolidation of petitions (if any); hear testimonies from witnesses; cross-examinations; re-examinations; closing submissions; filing of written submissions; and delivery of the abridged judgment.

My worry is that the last four days have been left open for judges and lawyers to allocate as they wish. This will be tricky if, for example, they will be several petitioners, say ten or even fifteen petitioners. I would have loved that all days were allocated by statute so that no one blames the judges if the time allocated by statute is not enough.

Otherwise, my preference would have been that the days for preparation and serving of the petition were reduced to a maximum of two (2) days (one day to file and serve, and the next day if service is substituted. The two days would have been enough considering that the petitioners have seven (7) days provided for in the Constitution within which to make up their mind. Allocating an additional five (5) days after the lapse of the said seven days gives the petitioners undue advantage in that they have a total of twelve (12) days in which to prepare their cases, while the respondents merely have four (4) days.

If, for example, there are twelve (12) petitioners, the implication of the new rules is that, collectively, the petitioners will have a total of 144 days in which to prepare their petitions and witnesses, whilst the respondent will have only four (4) days in which to respond to all the 12 petitions. The time allocated to the respondents is therefore unfairly little.

If per my suggestion, the petitioners’ time in the rules was reduced from five (5) days to two (2) days for filing of petitions and service, then the time served would have been better allocated for post-filing of petitions and responses. I say so because a lot needs to be done after filing petitions and receipt of responses. First, there is a need to hear and determine preliminary applications, such as consolidation of the petitions before a single judge. Then, there may be appeals of preliminary applications to the full bench. Then, there are testimonies from witnesses, cross-examinations, re-examinations; and closing submissions (oral and written). Clearly, this is where the bulk of time needed to have been allocated, say, six (6) days. Lastly, one (1) needs to be reserved for delivery of the abridged judgment. It should stand alone.

From the experience of the 2016 presidential petition, the confusion started from hearing of preliminary applications and appeals from the single judge to the full bench and going forward. This is where the rules should have been clear and strict in terms of time allocation. The rules should have been very strict on the length of the petitions and responses in terms of the permissible number of pages. In the Kenya petition of 2017, written submissions were restricted to ten pages only. Just imagine how much work the respondent would have to respond to if written submissions are one hundred (100) pages by twelve (12) petitions? This is almost three reams of paper that must be responded to in four (4) days? Plus volumes of witness statements and other evidence that must be carefully examined before responding?

I feel that the new rules should have addressed the issue of court attendance by the public. Due to Covid 19, court attendance by members of the public is restricted. However, due to the importance of the presidential petitions, it is important that the public is allowed to witness the trial fully. This entails that if members of the public cannot physically be present in court, then the rules must be changed to allow live broadcast on TV of the petition proceedings. Otherwise, party cadres may force their way into court premises, and they will be justified if there are no alternative means of transmitting the live coverage of the petitions.

Finally, avoiding electoral violence and ensuring legitimate election results is a key role of the judiciary in a democracy. But to achieve this, the judiciary should be fully prepared for electoral disputes. In addition, the public, including key stakeholders must be prepared for the electoral disputes. I am happy that on its part, the judiciary has done quite a lot to prepare by, among other things, review of the legal framework for the management of the presidential petitions. I think it is not too late yet for the Chief Justice to consider taking into consideration the issues that I have raised in this write-up.

May those with direct access to the Chief Justice convey my concerns. Due to the constitutional judicial independence provisions, I have no direct access to the Chief Justice.

Peter Sinkamba
President
The Greens
6 June 2021

16 COMMENTS

  1. Are you surprised, with the horrible PF government from Lying Lungu controlling the judiciary every step of the way? If Lungu would just spend even only 10% of the efforts involved on the economy we would be filthy rich!

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  2. The Chief Justice is wise, and I have known her as a person that prefers that court cases are decided on their merits and not technicalities. My deduction from what has been done is that the CJ wants to grant lawyers enough time to prepare sensible writs and not what was done by Jack Mwiimbu and Martha Mushipe. A Presidential election petition is a serious matter. It’s the preparation that requires more time and not the responses. Don’t forget that the courts don’t usually pass judgements on what wasn’t pleaded. I cautioned Peter Sinkamba not to make comments that make him look clever yet the net effect of his proposals will injure the Zambian society. So on this one I agree with everything that the CJ has proposed. Besides it’s the petitioners whose emotions are high, so they must…

  3. Peter Sinkamba everything he writes now is just to appease Lazy Lungu so he gives him a license for cultivating weed

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  4. SINKAMBA, WHO ARE SPEAKING FOR
    AND WHAT IS ROLE AS OPPOSITION PARTY
    JUST LIKE YOUR SISTER NAWAKWI.

    REALLY SHAME UPON YOU

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  5. Mr sinkamba is a very objective intelligent man. His intelligence is greater than that of the entire tribal upnd members put together. Hh will cry again. He has told his supporters to believe that they are winning. He is giving people false hope. He will cry in August. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so

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  6. The Presidential Petition Guidelines are most welcome. It should be noted that the Duty of the Petitioner is to lodge the Petition with Concourt within 7 days. It is Concourt’s Responsibility to hear and determine the Petition within 14 days. After Hearing and Determining the Petition Concourt must pass a Verdict within 14 days.Concourt cannot dismiss the Petition like what they did in 2016 based on a Time Technicality. In 2016 Petitioners were prejudiced by a State Captured Concourt which failed to do an objective and Professional job.

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  7. I suggest that these opposition political leaders be given a platform to seat in parliament and help shape our country’s institutions. Green Party and PEP in particular have shown that they are political parties that can contribute to our democracy. We have seen elected MPs who either just warm up seats in parliament or are totally absent.

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  8. When you stand for nothing you fall for anything.
    Just like our UK based impostor/ troll who called this man Chamba man a year ago today he is objective.
    Field Ruwe assessment of Sinkamba was on the money.

  9. Preparing a petition is not easy. Jack Mwiimbu had a tough time. Even after presenting a case, petitioners started amending what was already presented to court. Meanwhile, time was ticking. Petitioners need more time than the petitioned.

  10. This man from the Greens Petros Sakwimila has just lost it, from the time he paid for Stephano Kapongolo to refund what he was illigally paid for over staying in office 2016 just knew that he was a proper surrogate of the PF. Whatever he writes he is pleasing his masters. Nothing good will come from this man’s head.

  11. Good observation on the petition but you cant have a party with one agenda only, what if that year there is drought and all the weed dries up.

  12. “Preparation for the Presidential Petition should have been reduced to just two days-Peter Sinkamba”
    BA SINKAMBA, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WHEN A BUNCH CHAPS WITH NOTHING TO DO ARE THERE TO JUST MAKE THEMSELVES RELEVANT IN SOCIETY.
    MWEMA PETITIONERS SELENI TUBOMBEKO MWALIBELELO KULOFWA.

  13. Further, some election outcomes ignite emotions and petitions are part of the healing process. As usual Her Ladyship Irene Mambilima has demonstrated that she’s a cut above the rest. The aggrieved have been granted adequate time to air their grievance. There’s no sober person that can support Sinkamba’s statement. It’s a recipe for trouble

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