Be adventurous, Chipimo urges ConCourt judges

ELIAS Chipimo Jr has urged the Constitutional Court handling President Edgar Lungu’s 2021 eligibility case to do their job and rescue Zambia from a sense of a one party State.

Upon arrival at Solwezi Airport yesterday, President Lungu warned that there would be chaos in the country if judges tried to emulate the Kenyan courts and stop his third term bid in 2021.

“People are saying Zambian courts should be very brave and make decisions like the Kenyan courts, saying Zambian courts should be brave and make decisions which are in the interests of the people. But look at what is happening in Kenya right now! I’m 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’m available to stand if my party decides that I contest,” said President Lungu.

“But to our friends who are in the court system, I’m saying, do not plunge this country 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. I’m saying this in front of you people, there are cameras in front of me and there are Zambians who are writing and recording because 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 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.”

In his reaction to the President’s threatening remarks, Chipimo, who is National Restoration Party (NAREP) president, charged that he was shocked and appalled by the news that the judiciary had been threatened very categorically with not being adventurous by President Lungu.

“It is a sad day for our democracy when a Head of State, over an issue in which he has a personal interest, can make a statement, whether mildly or overtly, threatening the judiciary. I have really just one message and the message is not for President Lungu because I don’t believe that he has any desire or in fact capability of appreciating the fundamental importance of an independent judiciary. So, my message is to the Constitutional Court; be adventurous, rescue Zambia from a sense of indictment, rescue us from a sense of a one party state, do your job [and] you’ll be supported by the Zambian people,” Chipimo noted.

“We are told that if a determination is made around eligibility which does not accord with what the President expects, then somehow this is going to cause chaos.”

He added that while it may be true that barring President Lungu from contesting the 2021 general elections could result into disarray, such a situation would be intra-party.

“We believe the President [that] it will cause chaos but that chaos will only be within PF and I think by now, the Zambian people are used to the chaos within PF [and] so, it’s nothing new. Chaos or otherwise, the judiciary must be left to do their job and it is incorrect, it is improper, it is a violation of the Constitution to undermine the independence of this arm of government,”

Chipimo said.

“The reason we have the separation of powers is because is each branch of government is tasked with its own specific responsibilities and the statement made by the President has overstepped that mark. I cannot emphasise strongly enough the damage that this statement is capable of causing to the principle of the independence of the judiciary.”

The opposition leader insisted that the judiciary must stand firm in the face of President Lungu’s threats.

“Again, I urge the judiciary – stand firm! You may be the very last defence in a system that is so corrupted, so anti-the people, so determined to have its own way that it’s undermining the basic freedoms, not just of the individuals but the freedoms that we should expect from public officials like members of the judiciary who have a role to uphold justice,”

said Chipimo.

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