LAZ sees government involvement in PF wrangles
THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says the conduct of various state institutions has clearly demonstrated a narrative that government is interested in legitimizing the actions of one faction of the Patriotic Front (PF) over the other.
The association has expressed concern over the current happenings surrounding the former ruling party stating that they do not justify interference by external stakeholders including the government.
According to a statement issued by LAZ president, Lungisani Zulu, the association has noted that the country’s democracy is only assured with robust political parties, both ruling and opposition stating that exercise of the freedom of association and Assembly by citizens and their right to have a say in matters Of governance cannot be fully assured without strong democratic political parties.
According to LAZ, the Speaker of the Nation Assembly, Nelly Muti, proceeded to act on the instructions of one faction, and effected changes to the leadership of the National Assembly even when fully aware that the matter was being contested among the parties in the courts of law, something that the association finds to be wrong.
“It is an established practice steeped in Commonwealth Parliamentary tradition that parliament does not act on matters which are sub judice. The Speaker should have insisted on being satisfied that ‘elections’ were held in respect of any changes to the position of the leader of the Opposition in Parliament at the very least, on account of being fully aware different factions in Patriotic Front Leadership, so as to protect the House from any potential embarrassment.
“Additionally, Article 74 of the Constitution, on the procedure for election of the leader of opposition, requires that the opposition political party with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly must elect a Leader of the Opposition from amongst the Members of Parliament who are from the opposition. Election of the Leader of Opposition is therefore not an internal party matter, but a Constitutional issue Of immense public interest. As the Head of the Legislature, the Speaker must ensure,” stated Zulu.
Zulu further said that LAZ Will therefore move the Constitutional Court to make pronouncements on the procedure for electing the leader of opposition to bring the much-needed clarity, especially that precedence does not appear to be adhering to the requirements Of the Constitution.
LAZ has also named the current development concerning the register of societies, Thandiwe Pruri Mhende to be very troubling and most unfortunate especially that there is insinuation that a subpoena issued by a court of law does not have force of law and can be ignored or disobeyed by a civil servant at will or that a court document subject of proceedings can be impugned outside the court room
“We are also aware, that the Registrar of Societies, Mrs. Thandiwe Mhende, is subject of a subpoena issued by High Court Judge Honorable Justice Mr. Timothy Katenekwa and pursuant to the said subpoena. She produced a register for the office bearers Of Patriotic Front which shows that there were no changes. Following this production, the Registrar was surrendered to the Cabinet Office, which is never meant as a promotion in public service and the produced register has purportedly been called into question by the Ministry.
“We find this development very troubling and most unfortunate especially that there is insinuation that a subpoena issued by a court of law does not have force of law and can be ignored or disobeyed by a civil servant at will or that a court document subject of proceedings can be impugned outside the court room,” stated Zulu.
Zulu argued that the acts of sanctioning civil servants for complying with court orders and summons from the courts of law is highly condemnable by the association as such incidents have the danger of cowering public servants into doing illegal activities to please superiors, a conduct that is injurious to citizens and ultimately subject of civil servants’ actions while the rule of law demands that Government action must be based on legal principles, and those who comply With the law in their actions must be commended, not condemned.
“We Want to be categorical that a subpoena ad testificandum is a court summons to appear and give oral testimony for use at a hearing or trial, which summons must be obeyed, failing which the person summoned can be punished by the court. It is therefore a compelling order which attracts punitive sanctions at the instance Of the court that issued it,” said Zulu.
Further, he noted that the association was not privy to the reasons for the surrender of the Chief Registrar of Societies, as the sentiments so far suggest that it could be attributable to her complying with the subpoena.
“Various statements from Government Officials suggest a preference for one faction of the Patriotic Front being recognized the legitimate leadership of the party of the other and LAZ wants to repeat its call for Government Institutions to stop intermeddling in the internal affairs of a political party. Let the Court do its job and finally settle the disputes of warring parties,” Zulu stated.
By Buumba Mwitumwa