LAZ withdraws appeal in Lungu eligibility case

THE Law Association of Zambia has filed a notice to discontinue an appeal they lodged before the Constitutional Court against the decision of a single judge who dismissed it’s preliminary issue in which they were seeking to dismiss a case where Daniel Pule and others sought the court’s interpretation on whether or not President Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 elections.

In this matter, pro-PF party leaders, who include Pule, Wright Musona, Peter Chanda, and Robert Mwanza, petitioned the Constitutional Court and were seeking a declaration that President Lungu was eligible to contest the 2021 presidential elections but LAZ, who are the first interested party in this matter in which the Attorney General was cited as respondent, made an application and raised a preliminary issue which sought to dismiss the applicants’ action.

The court suspended directions in the main action after LAZ raised the preliminary issue.

It was directed that LAZ, through its lawyer John Sangwa, would file the formal order for directions by March 6, 2017, serve the summons, supporting affidavits and all arguments on all parties by March 23, 2017 while the applicants and the respondents were to file their answer and arguments by April 13, 2017 with an additional week for possible reply.

According to judge Margaret Munalula, who presided over the application, LAZ did not comply with the orders for directions.

This prompted Pule and others to apply that the preliminary issue be dismissed.

But Sangwa had argued that failure to comply with directions was not deliberate but due to underestimation of his workload.

He had stated that he was involved in a trial before the Commercial Court which had been untried for 10 years.

Sangwa had submitted that other matters in the High Court were stayed pending the outcome of the same matter, adding that there was pressure on all parties, including the court, to finish the case.

In response, one of the applicants’ lawyers Milingo Lungu said it was unacceptable for Sangwa to prioritise a Commercial Court matter when the Constitutional Court case should take priority.

Another lawyer for the applicants, Bonaventure Mutale, added that the court would undermine its inherent jurisdiction if it allowed the conduct of Sangwa to go unpunished.

And in her ruling, judge Munalula dismissed LAZ’s preliminary issue.

“The first interested party’s application to raise a preliminary issue, seeking to dismiss the main action is itself dismissed for the reasons set out above…This is in the interest of building the court’s jurisprudence, ” ruled judge Munalula.

LAZ had filed a notice that they would apply before the full court that judge Munalula’s ruling be set aside.

LAZ had also stated that its application be heard and decided on merit by the full court.

But according to a notice filed in the Constitutional Court recently, LAZ has indicated that it would discontinue the appeal it lodged on August 11, 2017.

“Take notice that at the next hearing of this matter by the Constitutional Court, counsel for the first interested party will apply for an order that it’s application dated 11 August, 2017 be discontinued,” read LAZ’s notice.

The Constitutional Court stayed the proceedings in this matter until further notice, following Pule and his co-petitioners’ application that ConCourt president judge Hildah Chibomba recuses herself from being on the bench because she was represented in a private matter by lawyers for UPND who were also an interested party in this matter.

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