On 6th December, 2018, it was a cloud and rainy day in Lusaka when the constitutional Court sat for a landmark judgement on whether or not President Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest as president in 2021. In this case, four opposition party leaders (Pastor Danny Pule of the Christian Democratic Party, Wright Musoma from Zambia Republican Party, Peter Chanda of the New Congress Party and Robert Mwanza from the Citizen Democratic Party) petitioned the ConCourt to determine whether president Lungu could stand in the next election or not. On this historical day, Governance, Elections, Advocacy and Research Services (GEARS) Executive Director, McDonald Chipenzi said “this day is a defining moment in as far as the role of the court in interpreting the constitution is concerned in Zambia (www.diamondtv, 2018, pg1). For sure, he was right and correct.
“Going by the parties’ respective submissions, the main question/issue is whether in terms of Article 106 (3) and (6), a presidential term of office that ran from 25th January, 2015 to 13th September, 2016 and straddled two constitutional regimes can or should be considered as a full term?”, the Concourt posed a question. Consequently, the Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling and pronounced itself that “THE PERIOD BETWEEN 25TH JANUARY 2015 AND 13TH SEPTEMBER 2016, DID NOT CONSTITUTE A FULL PRESIDENTIAL TERM OF OFFICE”. In simple terms, the court ruled that President Edgar Lungu’s first full term started on 14th August, 2016 and runs up to 12th August, 2021 covering the period when he was elected for his own full mandate to the exclusion of January 2015 to September 2016 when he came in to finish late President Sata’s term.
Speaking in an interview with ZNBC News on 13th November, 2020, renowned Lusaka Constitutional Lawyer, State Counsel, SAKWIBA SIKOTA said the Constitutional Court settled the debate on President EDGAR LUNGU’s eligibility in the 2021 polls such that those debating President LUNGU’s eligibility must simply read the Constitutional Court’s judgement (www. znbcnews, 2020, pg 1). He is brutally correct.
In like manner, Canadian based Zambian legal expert and international consultant, ELIAS MUNSHYA of Alberta Bar who is a known critic of the PF government put it this way: “I personally felt, before the Pule case was decided, that Lungu didn’t qualify. My views weren’t adopted by the ConCourt and so I lost! Let me put this one thing to rest – according to current Zambian law, President Lungu is eligible to stand in 2021. ConCourt made it explicitly clear (www. zambianobsever, 2020, pg1).
Former Justice Minister, renowned lawyer and General Secretary of opposition Rainbow Party, WYNTER KABIMBA, told Zambia Reports that “it is laughable to hear people arguing about whether or not President Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 election when the Constitutional Court has already determined his eligibility” (www.Zambiareports, 09/10/2020, pg1). And LUSAKA LAWYER AND UNIVERSITY LECTURER, JOSEPH CHIRWA told News Diggers in November, 2020 that “after reading the judgment of the Constitution Court, [it] is [clear] that the President is eligible…Based on the ruling of the court, I conquer with it that President Lungu is eligible to stand in 2021”, (www.diggers.news, 2020, pg 1).
And former Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) President, GEORGE CHISANGA told ZNBC that ‘President Edgar Lungu is eligible to stand for re-election in the 2021 General Election because the Constitutional Court pronounced itself on what constitutes a term of office’ (www.znbc, 09/11/2020, pg1). PETER SIKAMBA OF THE GREER PARTY observes that “Article 106(6)(b) states that a person who was elected to the office of President shall only be deemed to have served a “term” if he served for three or more years. President Lungu only served for 18 months and did not therefore complete a “term”Under Article 106(1) of the constitution, a term of office lasts 5 years” (www.lusakatimes, 15/01/2020, pg1)
But Lusaka lawyer, JOHN SANGWA who himself lost this case before the Concourt in 2018 has resurrected again with a new political drama by insisting that President Lungu is not eligible to contest in 2021 to the extent that he will physically challenge and petition his candidature. “The presidential petition is already written and polished, I am just waiting for the date when President Lungu will file his nomination to contest for 2021. The law is very clear that the man doesn’t not qualify,” said John Sangwa, a Lusaka based lawyer told News Diggers in November, 2020 (www.diggers.news/2020, pg 1).
However, CHILUFYA TAYALI, a popular social media political icon recently responded to JOHN SANGWA with few words; “HH and his legal Counsels think they can disqualify President Lungu using the Courts that have already ruled, in general terms, that he is ELIGIBLE… John Sangwa seems to be bitter for failing to install one of their cartel members to be President after the death of Sata, but it is making him fail to reason as a State Counsel which is why he lost the Presidential petition on a technicality of 14 days when he should have seen it coming” (www, zambianobserver, 08/03/2021).
Based on the aforesaid empirical facts before us, it is certainly overt that JOHN SANGWA is running a lone race; he is trying to catch a big fish in a dry pond which makes it an impossible mission both politically and legally. In other words, Sangwa seem to be the only man who is making illegal political noise on this topic for himself as well as for the weaker, divided and timid opposition in Zambia. Frankly speaking, JOHN SANGWA is not injuring anyone apart from himself and his opposition allies because he is walking a legal journey to nowhere. The naked fact is President Edgar Lungu is contesting for his second term in August, 2021 because “THE PERIOD BETWEEN 25TH JANUARY 2015 AND 13TH SEPTEMBER 2016, DID NOT CONSTITUTE A FULL PRESIDENTIAL TERM OF OFFICE”.