THE die is cast. The presidential petition finally comes to an end today after 14 days during which the country was paralyzed.
Never before has Zambia experienced a situation where you have a President-elect, Members of Parliament and all the trappings of power in place but they cannot function because of one constitutional nuisance.
On 15th August 2016, four days after the general election, Electoral Commission of Zambia chairperson Mr Justice Esau Chulu declared President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front winner by 50.3 percent as demanded by the amended Constitution.
The country exploded into a frenzy of celebrations. One could understand the joy and relief by PF supporters at the end of one of the hardest-fought electoral contests in the history of the country. The narrow margin of victory made it even more exciting.
However, the celebrations were short lived when the losing UPND presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema and running mate Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba lodged their petition in the Constitutional Court on August 19, 2016, challenging the election of President Lungu and Vice President Inonge Wina, the PF running mate.
At first it was thought that the proceedings would take a few days and it would be over. But as days passed and the two legal teams were locked in a fierce court battle, it became apparent that the country was descending into a constitutional crisis.
For the past 14 days Zambia has been at standstill politically, economically and legislatively. We have had no substantive Head of State after the swearing-in ceremony of the President-elect was postponed indefinitely.
For two weeks we have had no Cabinet, no Parliament and literally no executive and legislature to direct the affairs of the country. The situation was suffocating and frightening to say the least.
We agree with the Economics Association of Zambia president Dr Chrispin Mphuka that the Constitutional Court must save the nation much agony by making a final ruling on the presidential petition because the political stalemate is ruining the country’s economy.
Dr Mphuka feels the absence of a Cabinet is more damaging economically than we think. He says the absence of a Minister of Finance has driven the country into a serious economic dilemma. The International Monetary Fund team is scheduled to visit soon to tie up a loan which the country badly needs to take care of our financial challenges arising from the costly election and national referendum.
The national Budget is around the corner and despite having the bureaucrats at the ministries of Finance and National Planning, the country needs politicians to direct the process. It is the President and his two ministers of Finance and National Planning who must supervise and actually own the document.
A government without political leadership is like a headless chicken. There are so many things that could go wrong. One of them is insecurity. Right now Zambians are gripped by the fear of the unknown. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.
We therefore hope and pray that the landmark decision which the Constitutional Court is expected to make today will bring to an end the uncertainty and power vacuum created by the UPND presidential petition. Public patience is fast running out.
We also believe that the promises by the politicians that they will accept the ruling of the court were not made in vain. Today’s Constitutional Court ruling will not be easy to make or accept. But it has to be made.
The court is a tool of governance we chose for ourselves to enhance our democracy and the rule of law. We discarded the old judicial system because it was not meeting our new-found democratic aspirations. We settled on the Constitutional Court because we felt it was the most ideal form of settling election disputes.
It is for this reason that both litigants, the UPND and the Patriotic Front, must accept the outcome of the presidential petition. The people of Zambia did not force anyone to go to court. UPND went to court out of its own volition.