My Message to PF Rank and File: Waste No Time on Eligibility Court Cases, Focus on Elections
As the Green Party, we would like to advise the PF rank and file not to waste time on the eligibility cases but focus on wooing voters for President Edgar Lungu and the PF because the issues in contention on the eligibility of President to contest the 2021 elections have already been settled by the Constitutional Court in previous decisions of the Court. PF members should leave the court cases to the lawyers and focus of campaigning for time is not static but running out. These court cases are merely distractions.
I have gone through various arguments advanced by proponents of the petitions. It appears to me that the contest is on general matters that have already been determined by the Court. You don’t go to the courts to solve general matters and shape law. For that, you go to the legislature. You go to the court to resolve particular disputes. For the health of the Nation and the rule of law, it is critical that we stop using courts as weapons to resolve general matters and shaping the law but instead view courts as avenues of recourse to resolve limited cases.
I say so because when the Constitutional Court or Supreme Court rules one way, it is likely to rule that way again. So continuing to push a law or policy that contradicts a previous decision essentially is an exercise in futility. A precedent that the court sets effectively is intended to prevent the same issue from arising. If parties are dissatisfied with the decisions of superior courts, the best place for them to go is to the legislature or parliament. The on-going elections present the best avenue to constitute a legislature that could refine policy issues or points of law that are in contention on the eligibility clauses. Otherwise, pushing the court route to resolve policy issues and refining the law is sheer waste of time.
The central issue in the current controversy is whether “held office” and “term of office” mean the same thing. In my view, such a question is a general matter that should be solved by the legislature, and not the courts. What the court produces is not law per se, but a determination on how it interpreted an existing law for the purpose of settling a specific case or controversy. When the same issues and facts arise, they are settled based on that precedent.
In the previous cases, the Concourt generally held a consistent view that “held office” is linked to “term of office”, whereby a term means serving in the office of the president for a continuous period of three to five years. I agree with the court in many respects on this view. A Vice President usually holds the office of the President each time the President is out of jurisdiction. In a five year period or term, a Vice President can hold office of the President for as many times as twenty, depending on the travels out of jurisdiction the President makes. Does such “holding” of office of President by the Vice President disqualify such a Vice President to contest as a presidential candidate in the next election? Was that the intention of the crafters of the Constitution?
What of a President, who, in a single five year term more than twice handed over power to the Vice President, and in that manner more than twice held the office of the President: is that President eligible to contest the next election?
In my view the issues that are being raised at this point are beyond the courts. These are now matter for the legislature to clarify. So, lets not waste court’s time. More fire, lets win the voters on our side.