How long is the judiciary going to ignore UPND’s petition?
Five months ago Zambia went to the polls to elect a new president. The 50.35% who voted for PF’s Edgar Lungu got what they wanted, but the 47.63% who voted for UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema did not. Not surprisingly, taking the neck-on-neck result into consideration, the whole thing ended up in court. However, after an initial burst of activity in the Constitutional Court, the challenge to Lungu’s election has ground to a halt in the High Court. Here, UPND is arguing that its right to a fair hearing was breached in September 2016, when the Constitutional Court dismissed its election petition without trial for want of time. Yet, nothing is happening in this matter, as High Court Judge Mwila Chitabo has refused to make a ruling since UPND cadres ran amok at the court in December 2016. I find it rather disturbing that a judge is allowed to act in this way. In fact, I would have thought it was outright illegal as it amounts to obstruction of justice. Chitabo argued that he would not make a ruling until the UPND could control its cadres, but no one knows what this entails. Chitabo seems to be forgetting that if he ever finds the courage to rule that UPND’s rights were breached, and therefore orders a trial of its election petition, it would actually be in the interest of the ruling party. Lungu’s democratic credentials as a president are marred by allegations of electoral malpractices. A re-trial of UPND’s election petition would give him a chance to disprove the allegations. However, it is now two months since Chitabo dug his heels in, giving the impression that he is quite happy delaying justice for a lot longer.
Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly