..… as he says failure to which any Parliamentary by-election held in these Constituencies shall be illegal and null and void….
Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC) Executive Director Gregory Chifire has expressed worry that the Electoral Commission of Zambia seems to have resigned from performing its functions of conducting by-elections in Kabushi and Kwacha Constituencies within the time required by the Constitution of Zambia, from whence the Commission draws its mandate.
In a statement this morning, Mr. Chifire said following the nullification of the parliamentary election in Kabushi and Kwacha Constituencies on 28th July and 3rd August 2022 respectively by the decision of the Constitutional Court, Article 57 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia demands that elections to fill the vacancies are held within 90 days from the time the respective seats fell vacant.
He said accordingly, elections must be held on or before 27th October, 2022 in Kabushi and 2nd November 2022 in Kwacha constituency.
Mr. Chifire said practically it means that, as at today, 9 October 2022, 18 days remain to hold elections in Kabushi and 23 days in Kwacha constituencies, failure to which any Parliamentary by-election held in these Constituencies shall be illegal and null and void.
Mr. Chifire noted that the two constituencies risk not having representation in Parliament during the life of the current Parliament because there is no provision in the Constitution that allows the Commission to hold elections outside the 90 days timeframe.
He said ECZ has lamentably failed to carry its constitutional mandate and must accordingly be rebuked.
Mr. Chifire stated that the ECZ needs to be vigilant as opposed to the sloppiness that we have observed in the recent past.
He has since stressed the need for leaders to always remember that the Constitution has no provision for stopping the clock from ticking as regards the 90-day timeline for holding election as Article 267 (3) expressly states that the provisions are continuously in force.
He said the 90 days remain in constant motion and cannot be stopped by any activity in between.
“Whether there is a petition or not, 90 days means 90 days. We also note that the Constitutional Court in the 2016 Presidential Petition guided that the Presidential petition was a matter of a straight jacket scenario where time could not be negotiated, changed or amended as all parties and the Court were bound by the Constitutional provision. Similarly, in the issue at hand, we are all bound by the Constitutional provision in Article 57 (1) which provides for holding elections within 90 days. And 90 days means 90 days and not more than that.We must admit that we have a potential crisis at hand. This looming crisis can at this juncture only be averted by the Constitutional Court. As the Court is delivering the Judgment tomorrow, without veering into matters before the Court, we are praying that the Court shall be thorough and take into consideration the timelines provided in the Constitution so as to allow the holding of elections before the expiration of the given period.” Mr. Chifire said
And Mr. Chifire has encouraged all Zambians to accept the outcome of the decision by the Court and to respect its decisions.
“In 2021, the South African Constitutional Court thwarted an attempt by the Commission to hold some local government elections outside the 90-days required by the Commission. The example from South Africa shows how the Constitution remains a revered and sacred piece of legislations which citizens, all State organs and the courts are required to protect than to compromise it for political expediency.” He added
Meanwhile, Mr. Chifire has sad that the current happenings call on President Hichilema to urgently constitute the Electoral Commission Board which is running at half capacity with only 3 Commissioners and no board chairperson as well as no substantive Chief Executive Officer.
He said the Commission must also strengthen its conflict resolution mechanism to ensure it timely deals with electoral disputes.
He stressed need to have independent minds at all structures of the Commission, starting from the Commissioners to the directorate and committees tasked to resolve electoral disputes.
Mr. Chifire said President Hichilema and his administration have a rare opportunity to break away with the past by appointing Commissioners who cannot easily be influenced by politics nor reflect the party in power as the case is believed to have been in the past, but represent the interest to advance democratic governance beyond partisan line.