Editor's Comment

Reaping from seeds of disregarded inquiries

Court

SUDDENLY, the country is awash with Parliamentary petitions arising from the August 12, 2021 general elections. Coincidentally, most of the petitions are against the former ruling party, the Patriotic Front legislators.
The petitions are a replica of 2011 when Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) lost power to PF.
A good number of MMD parliamentary seats were petitioned as PF sought to gain majority in Parliament.
This time around, the tide is against PF, whose MPs are hanging by the thread as they face a barrage of petitions from United Party for National Development (UPND). While the petitions may appear to be a mockery to the country’s democracy, they are justified because they are a reflection of the uneven playing field. Yet there was an attempt by President Edgar Lungu to get to the root cause of the electoral malpractices such as violence before and after the August 11, 2016 elections. At the time of appointing a Commission of Inquiry which was led by Mr. Justice Munalula Lisimba, President Lungu, whose re-election had been petitioned by then opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, seemingly meant well. The Commission of Inquiry also inquired into the voting patterns between 2006 and 2016 and the root causes of these patterns. The inquiry also examined to what extent the pre-election political violence could have influenced the voting patterns in the 11th August 2016 general elections which ushered Mr Lungu into his second term of office. Among other matters, the inquiry looked at the role of political parties, traditional rulers, and the media in shaping voting patterns and instigation of violence among others. The commission was tasked to submit its report to the President within 120 days from the date of appointment. It did so. However, the report ended up gathering dust as there was seemingly no political will to implement the recommendations. What the country is witnessing from the many petitions is as a result of failure to heed to the recommendations of the commission. The Commission of Inquiry to examine the causes of the political violence before and after the 11th August, 2016 general elections is not the only inquiry instituted over the last 10 years. The nation is simply reaping from its failure by the PF government to implement findings of the Commission of Inquiry which was led by Justice Lisimba. Had the Commission of Inquiry been constituted in good faith, some of the people and institutions found wanting should have been penalised, which could have led to sanity in the just-ended elections. And this was Lusaka High Court Judge Charles Chanda’s lamentation yesterday as he upheld the election of Monty Chinkuli as UPND Member of Parliament for Kanyama constituency. Judge Chanda said it was hoped that by government constituting a commission of inquiry into the violence and voting patterns of 2016, electoral violence would be a thing of the past. As custodians of the constitution, Judge Chanda said the judiciary expects that political players should desist from inciting or engaging in violence as a form of soliciting for votes, rather they should allow for a free and fair election which is incident-free. Judge Chanda dismissed the election petition filed by losing PF candidate Elizabeth Phiri, who is the former MP for Kanyama, after finding that the allegations of electoral malpractices against Chinkuli were not widespread and did not prevent the electorates from electing a candidate of their choice. The country was not going to go through this unprecedented high number of petitions, which are not only a drain of resources but also contributing to political tension in the country. The courts, too, are overwhelmed in dealing with the petitions, some of which are now being referred to the Constitutional Court through appeals.



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