THE Law Association of Zambia has asked President Edgar Lungu to retract his statement against the judiciary over his eligibility to contest the 2021 elections.
Speaking on arrival at Solwezi Airport on Thursday, President Lungu warned that there would be chaos in the country if judges tried to emulate the Kenyan courts to stop his bid for a third term 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.”
But Law Association of Zambia president Linda Kasonde stated in a statement yesterday that national unity and the integrity of Zambia’s democracy depend on the rule of law and justice for all.
“LAZ therefore calls on His Excellency President Edgar Lungu to retract his statement and assure the public that justice will be allowed to prevail no matter the outcome of the impending judgment or decision of the Constitutional Court in the case that will determine his eligibility for elections in 2021,” Kasonde stated.
“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’”
Kasonde stated that as one of the three arms of government, the judiciary was an integral part of Zambia’s democracy, ensuring checks and balances, adherence to the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country.
She stated that LAZ was alarmed by statements made by President Lungu on Thursday November 2, 2017 at Solwezi Airport in North Western Province that appeared to threaten the judiciary against making any adverse ruling against him in the impending judgement on the issue of whether he is eligible to stand in 2021 as president.
Kasonde stated that her association was deeply concerned with the statement 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 separation of powers in our democracy is limited. These statements further serve to undermine the authority of the judiciary and erode public confidence in the institution. As such, LAZ condemns these statements unreservedly,” Kasonde stated.
“Article 118 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia states, ‘The judicial authority of the Republic derives from the people of Zambia and shall promote accountability.’ Article 118 (2) of the Constitution further states that in exercising judicial authority, courts shall be guided by the principle that ‘justice shall be done to all, without discrimination’ or, as President Lungu himself put it, ‘without fear or favour’. The integrity of our judicial system and indeed our democracy rests on this principle; indeed no one is above the Constitution.”
Kasonde stated that the judiciary shall be able to perform its 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.