Last Thursday, The Mast published a story in which University of Zambia law lecturer James Kayula contended that the Constitution does not allow Edgar Lungu to contest presidential elections again.
“Unlike the failed 2001 third term bid by Frederick Chiluba, whose illegality was ‘naked’ to everyone’s eye, the current third term is subtle and benign as it presents itself in somewhat misplaced apparel of legitimacy provided by the Constitutional Court. Effectively, the interpretation of the Constitutional Court has the potential to rob the Constitution of this critical institutional barrier of term limit, and inadvertently and potentially re-introduce ‘life president’ and its dreaded evils. In the wake of legal advocacy and strengthening of the rule of law, this will not be allowed to pass,” writes Kayula.
Reacting to Kayula’s argument, Lusaka Province Patriotic Front secretary Kennedy Kamba insisted that the Constitutional Court had cleared Edgar to contest in 2021.
“We want to warn James Kayula, a lecturer at the University of Zambia, and some opposition leaders that want to sway the minds of people into thinking that President Lungu is not eligible to stand in 2021, to stop their futile machinations. There are other political commentators like John Sangwa and some political party leaders that have been attempting to influence the minds of people into falsely believing that President Lungu was not eligible to stand in 2021. Kayula, Sangwa and all those who claim to be pundits of the law must stop these ridiculous claims that President Lungu is going for a third term and that he is not eligible to stand in 2021,” warns Kamba. “The law has provisions that will allow us to take action against them. We want to appeal to Kayula, Sangwa and all those who are excited and making weird claims about President Lungu’s eligibility, to begin to demonstrate sobriety because their hatred for President Lungu will not take them anywhere. President Lungu will be on the ballot come 2021. They must stop misleading the nation forthwith.”
Freedom of expression, as well as academic freedom must be alien concepts to Kamba.
We know that it is too much to ask of Kamba to understand freedom of expression as a marketplace of ideas, but we will still implore him to limit his ignorance to the pursuit of corruption and violence amongst many other vices in which he continues to distinguish himself. That said, Kamba is welcome to the eligibility debate. He must only ensure that he quickly learns to attack the ideas expressed aside from the persons expressing them. It is hard, but he can learn.
We read, with shock and horror, views expressed by Kamba. According to him, the Constitutional Court cleared Edgar to contest the forthcoming 2021 presidential elections. Kamba, like others peddling this argument, fell short of pointing to the actual page of the Constitutional Court judgment where such a pronouncement was made.
Kamba instead proceeded to warn Kayula, Sangwa, some opposition leaders and “all those who claim to be pundits of the law, to stop these ridiculous claims that President Lungu is going for a third term and that he is not eligible to stand in 2021”.
It is amusing, if not sad, that Kamba can claim that “these so-called law lecturers are trying to mislead the nation” and warn them to stop issuing “incorrect statements because they are embarrassing themselves.” Kamba creamed all this up with “we will not take them kindly as the PF.” In trying hard to be relevant to the ongoing eligibility debate, Kamba is confident that the law has provisions that will allow him and the PF to take action against the law lecturers and others arguing that Edgar is not eligible to contest presidential elections for a third time.
Law and other lecturers in institutions of higher education have academic freedom to engage in social, political, economic and legal public debate, in addition to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Kamba and the Patriotic Front must realise that in a democracy, you must suffer listening to ideas that may make you uncomfortable. Kamba and the Patriotic Front must further realise that it is not an offence to exchange ideas that are not in support of their party position. In this case, the law lecturers have presented elaborate arguments that logically lead to the conclusion that Edgar is not eligible to contest the 2021 presidential elections. Instead of issuing threats and gagging the law lecturers and others opposed to Edgar’s third term bid, Kamba and others in the Patriotic Front must take stock of what is being said and start looking for another candidate to stand on their party ticket.