By Day Breaker
ZAMBIA’s Law Association today asked President Edgar Lungu to retract his alarming threats on judges over his 2021 third-term eligibility case as such utterances go against the Republican Constitution he pledged to protect when sworn into office.
President Lungu issued the threats Thursday during a visit to Solwezi, by warning the country’s judiciary against making any adverse ruling against him in the impending judgement on whether he is eligible to stand in the 2021 presidential election.
Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Linda Kasonde demanded in a press release issued by the entire Council of LAZ that President Lungu should retract the threats and guarantee the constitutional autonomy of the judiciary within the confines of the principle of separation of powers.
“As one of the three arms of government, the judiciary is an integral part of Zambia’s democracy, ensuring checks and balances on adherence to the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country. The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) is therefore alarmed by statements made by the Republican President, Mr. Edgar Lungu, on 2nd November 2017… that appear to threaten the judiciary,” the statement read. “LAZ is deeply concerned with the statements especially that they came from the Head of State. Such statements do little to dispel the notion that the Executive tries to interfere with the work of the judiciary and that the separation of powers in our democracy is limited.”
Kasonde observed that such utterances undermine the authority of the judiciary and erode public confidence in the institution, and should be condemned unreservedly.
“LAZ wishes to remind the Republican President, himself a lawyer, of his sworn duty under Article 91 of the Constitution to ‘respect uphold and safeguard our Constitution; promote democracy and enhance the unity of the Nation; promote and protect the rights and freedoms of a person; and uphold the rule of law’,” she stated. “LAZ therefore calls on His Excellency President Lungu to retract his statements and assure the judiciary and the public that justice will be allowed to prevail no matter the outcome of the impending judgment or decisions of the Constitutional Court in the case that will determine his eligibility for election in 2021.”
Kasonde reminded President Lungu that there was no one above the Constitution.
“The judiciary should be able to perform their duties without intimidation or threat of harm, especially from the Head of State who should be the first person to defend or protect the judiciary from attack,” stated Kasonde.
President Lungu warned during an Airport press interaction in the North Western provincial capital of Solwezi that there would be chaos in the country if judges try to take leaf from the Kenyan courts and stop his third term bid in 2021, a matter currently pending consideration in the Constitutional Court.
“Look at what is happening in Kenya right now! I am saying the courts of law in Zambia should also see what is happening, they should not behave as though they are not part of our African continent. The most important thing I can say right now is that in 2021, I am available to stand if my party decides that I contest,” he said. “But to our friends who are in the court system, I am saying, ‘do not plunge us into chaos by imitating or emulating Kenya or any other court system for that matter which does not care about the interests of the people’.”
President Lungu acknowledged that he was making these assertions in the public glare.
“…I have heard some judges say ‘why don’t we emulate the Kenyan courts, they are very brave with what they have done’. I don’t think that is right. We should preserve the peace, we should listen to the voice of the people, we should reflect the will of the people in the Constitution. Whether I am eligible to stand or not in 2021 should not be dependent on imitating Kenya.”
The Kenyan Supreme Court in August annulled the presidential re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta after the Raila Odinga-led opposition alliance cited irregularities in the electoral process that was lauded by international observers as free and fair.