WYNTER Kabimba says the ruling PF has messed up President Edgar Lungu’s third term bid because of a ‘badly’ drafted constitutional instructive phrase of “holding office twice.”
And Kabimba, who is Rainbow Party general secretary, says President Lungu’s end will be bad.
And the former justice minister says the trend that is in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda where Presidents defy constitutional provisions just to remain in office has started cascading into Zambia.
The Republican Constitution bars a person who has held office twice as a President to stand for a third time for possible re-election.
But the ruling party, through its secretary general Davies Mwila, has insisted that President Lungu is its presidential candidate endorsed by the central committee to stand in the 2021 general elections.
“President Lungu is available for the 2021 elections and that is the position of the party. He will stand in 2021 as he is available; that is the reason why the central committee adopted him,” said Mwila last week on Friday.
During Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme on Monday night, Kabimba, a lawyer, reiterated that President Lungu was ineligible to contest as a President in 2021.
“The Constitution talks about somebody who has been twice elected, not somebody who has served two terms. Obviously, if you take that (holding office twice) as the instructive phrase, you’ll come to realise that Edgar Lungu was first elected in 2015 and elected for the second time in 2016. So, he is ineligible!” Kabimba said.
“What I think, in all honesty, is that the intention of the PF was to give Edgar Lungu a third term but the [constitutional] drafting was bad. They messed up the drafting! They had already decided that ‘this is our Constitution now, this is a done deal.’ Nobody looked at these articles very closely. So, repeating myself, the view that we take as Rainbow Party on the basis of the letter that I wrote to the secretary general of the PF which, I think, he must have shown to the President on January 30 this year, we still maintain the position that Edgar Lungu is not eligible to stand in 2021.”
He said the amended Constitution, which President Lungu assented to on January 5, last year, was ineffectively designed to give the President a third term in office.
“When you look at the place where he triggered this debate from, this issue is irrelevant to his visit to Solwezi! Completely irrelevant! He went to open a provincial conference [and] so, how did this issue come about? It was an off-the-cuff comment. But it’s good that he has triggered the debate himself and so, we as citizens must respond to that debate. He knew that the matter is in court, he knew that he is an ultimate beneficiary out of that court case [but] he goes ahead and makes a statement, warning the judges, intimidating the judges and even giving wrong examples – ‘don’t do what the Kenyan judges have done’. There is nothing wrong that the Kenyan judges did to declare an election null and void on account that those results were unverifiable…” Kabimba said.
He added that President Lungu was today trying to emulate Frederick Chiluba’s botched third term campaign.
“There are close similarities; don’t forget that the issue of limitation of term of office was an issue that became very common after 1990, when the wind of change for democratic dispensation was sweeping Africa after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall in 1989. So, the thinking then was that ‘can we stop people that want to overstay in power so that we can have this rotation of leadership and a country can get the best leaders in due course’,” Kabimba recalled.
“So, you’ll come to find that almost all the countries that were one party [states] prior to 1990, when they converted to multipartism, they had a limitation of term of office and Zambia was no exception. But what [Fredrick] Chiluba did in 1996 was to amend the Constitution to go back to the limitless term that they condemned [Dr Kenneth] Kaunda for. So, there is no difference between what Chiluba tried to do and what Edgar Lungu is trying to do today! The other similarity is that Chiluba was trying to cover up corruption and Edgar is trying to do the same because now there is all this hullabaloo about money being stolen as we have seen from the Auditor General’s report.”
On Mwila’s insistence that President Lungu would be fielded on the ruling party ticket in 2021, Kabimba pointed out that such were grave remarks that bordered on public interest.
“…when we listen to him making a statement such as that one, we must get worried about where this country is going. The people of Zambia must get ready to stop these guys in the tracks! It is the PF, like somebody commented, that are going to cause acrimony and not the courts of Zambia. It’s not the courts that are going to cause acrimony, chaos [but] it is them that will refuse to accept the decision of the court,” he observed.
And Kabimba said African leaders, according to history, that wanted to bastardise the Constitution or to change the limitation of term of office clause so that they could prolong their presidency, were corrupt.
“The situation going on in Uganda today where five years ago they agreed [that] nobody above the age of 75 can be President; President [Yoweri] Museveni realises that he is going to be 75 when Uganda goes to elections [in 2021], he moves his party to amend the Constitution to suit himself! Burundi today has throngs and throngs of refugees in Tanzania and Rwanda, again on account of this third term clause. Many people died in Burundi. Can you say that it’s because of the courts in Burundi? No! Congo DR is another country where the people now don’t even know whether or not [Joseph] Kabila is constitutionally in office. Now, from the north it’s (the trend of Presidents wanting to overstay in office) drifting down to Zambia. Surely, the will of the people must be respected and you can’t be changing the Constitution as if you are changing a love letter to your girlfriend!” Kabimba said.
Meanwhile, the opposition leader noted that President Lungu’s recent threats to judges in Solwezi and his subsequent statement last week in Lusaka that he would only go up to 2021 when his term of office ends “unless otherwise,” carried essentially the same implicit meaning.
“It’s the same statement; unless otherwise what? What will come out of this thing? Unless Zambia changes its boundaries! I don’t want to delve into conjecture [on what made President Lungu say that he is only going up to 2021, unless otherwise] but the principle that I’m canvassing here is that the President must stop speaking to the judges directly or indirectly. He must stop that because that is destroying the judiciary, full stop! I don’t care how he phrases his statements, to the extent that his statements could be understood to intimidate the judges, to pressure the judge, to put undue influence on the judges to the extent that those statements could be understood to achieve that kind of iniquity, so to say. The President must withdraw and I want to adopt the argument by LAZ that, in fact, he must publicly withdraw that statement and tell the nation [that] ‘I have withdrawn the statement,’” said Kabimba.
“Let me tell you and I can swear this to the living Lord; his (President Lungu’s) end will be bad. He may not believe it, he may think that he is the biggest Christian now, those around him, including the Minister of Religious Affairs could be praying for him 24 hours a day [but] the laws of nature are the same. The same God he is praying to is the same God that looks after the Zambian people, there are no two Gods – Edgar’s and that of the Zambian people. And if God is made to choose between Edgar Lungu and His people, He will choose His people – He can’t choose Edgar. God is very fair!”