NASON Msoni has advised President Edgar Lungu against arm-twisting Constitutional Court judges handling his 2021 eligibility case, stressing that tinkering around the matter can result in a “political tsunami that can deliver a potentially hostile force, leading him into political exile.”
And Msoni says any president who upholds the rule of law has no cause to panic when his term of office expires.
Meanwhile, Msoni, who is All People’s Congress (APC) president, has noted that the current instability being experienced in the Great Lakes Region has its genesis in the failure by leaders to respect their respective constitutions.
President Lungu last Thursday 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 upon arrival in Solwezi.
“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.”
Reacting to the President’s remarks, Msoni said President Lungu had a unique opportunity to learn from outgoing President of Botswana Ian Khama who, while attending Zambia’s 53rd independence celebrations at State House in Lusaka a week ago, openly said he had no intention to amend his country’s constitution in order to prolong his stay in office.
“This was, in effect, President Lungu’s message politically, counselling and urging him to abort his ill-fated intentions to manipulate the Constitution. President Khama is a progressive statesman whom the SADC region will dearly miss. When political players agree on a set of principles on how a game should play out, it is anticipated that all players will abide by those same set of rules. Circumventing the rules by one player clearly attracts instability and lawlessness. It is, therefore, incumbent upon President Lungu to heed counsel and abandon the project [of contesting the 2021 general elections] and ask those spineless mercenaries seeking all manner of interpretations to circumvent the Constitution to stand down. President Edgar Lungu has a unique opportunity – like his Botswana counterpart – to leave office with dignity and respect without waiting to be forced out and disgraced,” Msoni said in an interview.
“There is also the obvious danger that insisting on staying on can easily precipitate and possibly blow [off] and give rise to a political tsunami that can deliver a potentially hostile force, leading him into political exile thereby denying himself benefits that go with the office of a former president. I think that the President has a constitutional and moral obligation to distance himself from desperate clowns out to persuade him to put himself forward for re-election in 2021.”
He said it was disheartening for President Lungu to threaten judges.
“This threat is meant to arm-twist judges to rule in his favour or he sensed danger!” Msoni noted.
He added that the discontent in Zambia at the moment could not sustain “a failed and recycled candidate for elections neither can a stolen election be sustained beyond 2021”.
“In fact, it is rather a barred candidate who forces himself on the people who is likely to cause confusion and despondency in the nation if he forces himself to be on the ballot paper. The behaviour exhibited by President Lungu falls far short of what is expected of a statesman – it is shameful and points to self-preservation; this is not about the people but servicing his personal interests. I can counsel Lungu to understand that leadership goes with seasons [and] it is apparent that his season is nearly over and plainly, he can’t read it accurately,” Msoni said.
“How on earth can you have a political chancer wanting to have more than the person who gave them the presidency on a silver platter? The one who fought for it only served for three years [but] you who risked and invested nothing wants to eat more than the person who truly fought for it! By all means, Lungu’s behaviour is baffling and he needs to seriously reflect on his erroneous behaviour before it is too late!”
The opposition leader further wondered where President Lungu’s political fright was coming from.
“Any President who upholds the rule of law has no cause to panic when his term of office comes to an end. It is usually those who abuse the privilege and office that fear the prospects of retiring or being barred who threaten violence and trouble. It is being disrespectful to Zambians and the lack of respect for other arms of government – you cannot as a President be threatening institutions with impunity if they ruled against you,” Msoni said.
“It is apparent, without prejudice, that his candidacy remains in limbo. The 2021 elections will be for people whose hands are not soiled with corruption and theft of public funds. If your hands are soiled with corruption, it may well be that you forget about the 2021 elections. You can’t have it both ways!”
Meanwhile, Msoni said it was being insincere for President Lungu to assert that Zambians should learn from what was happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last Wednesday, President Lungu visited Kenani Refugee Transit Centre in Nchelenge district in Luapula Province.
The centre is hosting over 6,000 refugees fleeing the DRC where President Joseph Kabila has unconstitutionally prolonged his presidency, thus deepening a political crisis in the vast mineral-rich nation.
“[President Lungu] knows too well that the route of instability in the DRC is due to insatiable appetite by the incumbent President Joseph Kabila, who is clinging on to power through tinkering with the constitution and rejecting to hold elections. Today, the instability being experienced in the Great Lakes Region has its genesis in the failure by leaders to respect their respective constitutions, leading to anarchy and all manner of lawlessness. Rather, it is the President who should seriously reflect on his intention to obnoxiously tinker and coerce the interpretation of the Constitution in order to carve himself another term of office beyond 2021,” explained Msoni.