(By Oliver Chisenga and Mwaka Ndawa)
THE PF should learn to respect the wish of the people, Hakainde Hichilema said after the Lusaka High Court dismissed the PF petition over the Sesheke Constituency by-election won by UPND’s Romeo Kangombe yesterday. Meanwhile, jubilation characterised the Lusaka High Court after judge Gertrude Chawatama upheld Kangombe’s election. Addressing the press and UPND supporters shortly after the judgment, Hichilema said the ruling party’s scheme to manipulate the law clearly showed that it was time for them to pack and go.
He said the people of Sesheke made their decision and expressed the feeling of the people across the country today.
“The verdict has been delivered by the Judge and I think the best thing going forward as a country is to accept the decision of the people of Sesheke. They made their decision loud and clear and we must respect it,” Hichilema said.
“What Sesheke people did is to express what is the feeling of the people across the country. The people of Zambia are fed up with the failures of PF, they are fed up with attempts meant to manipulate the law especially under the National Dialogue Forum with regard to the attempted amendments to the Constitution which do not favour the people of Zambia. It favours the PF, the whole process favours the PF. [But] the people of Sesheke, for example, are saying no to such manipulation of the people of Zambia by those in office.”
He said when “you see those in office working to change the laws to favour them at all corners then you know that the country has lost the rule of law.”
“The country has lost respect for itself and its time to change leadership. PF must go and rest, they have done too much damage to our country and UPND must take over and look after the people of Zambia in all aspects,” said Hichilema.
In court, judge Chawatama found that the petitioner, PF’s Dean Masule, had not sufficiently proved that the misconduct in connection with the Sesheke by-elections was done with the knowledge, consent or approval of the respondent.
“The will of the people of Sesheke was expressed by the number of votes secured by the winning candidate and my primary duty is to sustain that role by giving full effect to the decision of the people of Sesheke Constituency,” judge Chawatama said.
“In choosing the respondent as their member of parliament for Sesheke Constituency, it is left to me to say that he was validly elected. Therefore, in view of the evidence before me, I do declare that he was duly elected, therefore the petition is hereby dismissed.”
In this matter, Masule petitioned Kangombe’s election alleging electoral malpractices. He alleged that Kangombe was not duly elected because the election was characterised with malpractices such as violence and intimidation. He alleged that the actions by the UPND cadres prevented the people of Sesheke Constituency from voting for a candidate of their choice. However, Kangombe denied the allegations that violence engulfed Sesheke district during the by-election, as the PF officials themselves engaged in electoral malpractice to prevent electorates from voting for him.
Kangombe asked the Lusaka High Court to dismiss Masule’s petition with costs. He stated that Masule’s allegations that violence engulfed the whole district were speculative, and that if at all that occurred, which he denied, they were isolated incidences. Kangombe claimed that it was common knowledge that any incidences of violence that were recorded were a consequence of PF activities.
“It is evident that the petitioner’s allegations are speculative; that they do not relate to me or my electoral or polling agents. And that the alleged incidences, if at all they occurred, which I denied, were isolated incidences and were, according to the petitioner, concentrated in mainly one ward, Mulimabango ward, which hosts Sesheke’s Central Business District,” he stated.
He claimed that the PF undertook vote buying, use of government personnel and government resources in campaigns and use of violence against the members of the public perceived to be UPND. Delivering judgment, judge Chawatama found that the violence that characterised the elections was perpetrated by both parties.
“According to the evidence on record, six out of nine wards were affected with violence as it was unprecedented,” she said.
The court found that there was a break down of the electoral process as the environment was not conducive due to the violence.
“The electoral commission should not only have noted that the elections were marred with violence but should have suspended campaigns or the parties involved,” judge Chawatama said.
She also found that violence was perpetrated by both the PF and UPND including the police.
She further found that though the police officers executed their duty, some police officers in Sesheke were wrong when they beat up some cadres.
Judge Chawatama granted leave to appeal the judgment.