FORMER ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano has told the Constitutional Court that the termination of former ECZ vice chairperson Emily Sikazwe’s contract by the President was premature.
This is a matter in which Sikazwe petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an order that President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to terminate her contract was null and void and devoid of merit.
Sikazwe was appointed as the Vice Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in 2018, and her contract was set to run until 2022. However, in 2021, President Hakainde Hichilema terminated her contract prematurely, citing “gross misconduct” as the reason for her termination. Sikazwe then took the matter to the Constitutional Court, seeking an order that the President’s decision was null and void and lacked merit.
During the court proceedings, former ECZ Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano testified in support of Sikazwe’s case. Nshindano stated that the termination of Sikazwe’s contract was premature and not in accordance with the ECZ’s code of conduct. He stated that, according to the ECZ’s code of conduct, Sikazwe was entitled to a fair hearing before her contract could be terminated. Nshindano also pointed out that there was no evidence to support the President’s claims of “gross misconduct” against Sikazwe.
Nshindano’s testimony was seen as significant as he was a former senior official of the ECZ and had an in-depth knowledge of the Commission’s policies and procedures. He also had a reputation for being impartial and professional in his approach to electoral matters. Nshindano’s testimony was seen as further proof of the lack of evidence against Sikazwe and the premature nature of her termination.
Sikazwe’s case has drawn widespread attention, with many in the legal and political circles expressing concern about the President’s decision to terminate her contract. The termination has been seen as a political move, with some suggesting that Sikazwe was targeted because of her perceived political affiliations. Sikazwe, a highly regarded and respected electoral official, had earned a reputation for being independent and impartial in her work. Her termination has raised serious questions about the independence of the ECZ and its ability to conduct free and fair elections.
In addition to Nshindano’s testimony, several other witnesses were called to testify in the case. These included former ECZ officials, election observers, and experts in the field of electoral matters. Their testimonies further reinforced the argument that Sikazwe’s termination was unjustified and lacked merit.
In addition, the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Sikazwe’s case will have far-reaching implications for the independence of the ECZ and the integrity of the electoral process in Zambia. The case has brought to the forefront the importance of protecting the independence of electoral bodies and ensuring that they are free from political interference. The Constitutional Court’s ruling will serve as a benchmark for the protection of electoral integrity and the independence of electoral bodies in Zambia and beyond.
Regardless of the outcome, the case has already shed light on the need for a clear and transparent code of conduct for electoral officials and the importance of ensuring that they are given a fair hearing before any action is taken against them. It has also highlighted the need for electoral bodies to be protected from political interference and to be allowed to carry out their duties in an impartial and independent manner.
The case of Sikazwe’s termination is a reminder of the importance of protecting the independence of electoral bodies and ensuring that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. It serves as a warning to all those who seek to undermine the electoral process and the independence of electoral bodies for their own political gain. The outcome of the case will be closely watched by the people of Zambia and beyond, as it will set a precedent for the protection of electoral integrity and the independence of electoral bodies in the region and beyond.