MWENYA Musenge says it’s difficult to take President Edgar Lungu’s interpretation of the eligibility clause seriously because he once misled the nation and his ministers to continue working against the law prior to the 2016 general elections.
In an interview, the former Copperbelt minister said he was sceptical about President Lungu’s interpretation of the Constitutional Court ruling regarding his eligibility to stand in 2021 because prior to the 2016 elections, he misled the nation with his interpretation of the law.
Article 106(3) of the Constitution states: “A person who has twice held office as President is not eligible for election as President.”
President Lungu was first sworn in as President in January 2015 after a presidential election held following the death of president Michael Sata in October 2014.
President Lungu was sworn in a second time in September 2016, few weeks after winning a disputed election.
Musenge insisted that according to the Constitution, President Lungu was not eligible to stand in next year’s elections.
“We have seen videos going round in which the President, His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, is categorically stating that the law allows him to stand in 2021 but there are others – stakeholders, other opposition leaders, the Zambian people including myself – who are saying going by what the law stipulates, he is not eligible to stand,” Musenge said.
He said the only person that could put the eligibility matter to rest is Chief Justice Irene Mambilima by openly interpreting what the clause in the law stipulates.
Musenge refuted assertions that opposition leaders were afraid to challenge President Lungu in 2021, hence their insistence that he does not qualify to stand.
“No one is afraid to stand against Edgar Chagwa Lungu. I don’t think so. The issue at hand here is that it is the law which prohibits him. I have always said ba Edgar Lungu can help us by giving directives to the Judiciary to quickly give an interpretation and put this matter to bed unlike where he himself and alone understands it better to conclude that he is going to stand,” he said.
Musenge recalled that President Lungu’s “defective” interpretation of the law had left him and other ministers in a quandary on how they were going to pay back the money paid to them while they remained in office illegally in 2016.
“In fact, what I can say is that it is very difficult to take Edgar Lungu’s word today that he, as a learned lawyer, interprets that clause correctly or rightly because here I am as a former minister. I’m in quandary as I was directed to continue working against what the law stipulated and when this matter went to court, there was judgment against all those former ministers in the previous administration that we have to pay back to government what was paid to us. Meanwhile, the person who gave [the] directives stands aside and a poor person like myself has to scrounge around to look for money to pay back,” he said.
“Where am I going to get that kind of money? We were misled at that particular time by the Head of State Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu. So what guarantee is there that he is not trying to mislead us again on his eligibility? So ba Chief Justice should not go to sleep. Ba Chief Justice should not remain silent on this matter; can she guide the nation, can she put straight and in simple terms, in simple language, in simple English and if possible interpret in local languages so that people can understand because once they tell us that, yes, he is eligible, we will forget about it and focus on other issues or rather prepare ourselves for the coming election.”
And Musenge warned ministers and PF leaders against the arrogance of imposing their party president on the Zambian people.
“This issue of eligibility has brought a lot of talk around the country and it is interesting to note that our friends, those who are trying to defend the eligibility of Edgar Chagwa Lungu in 2021, are doing so with extreme arrogance, especially when you listen to [Brian] Mundubile. The way he speaks it’s like they elect themselves, they put themselves in office and that is not right,” Musenge said.
He reminded PF leaders that they were elected by the people and given the mandate to govern the country by the masses.
Musenge bemoaned the current situation where there was a misunderstanding over the constitutional clause.