By PERPETUAL SICHIKWENKWE –
FIFTY-TWO witness statements from the United Party for National Development (UPND) in a petition where its president Hakainde Hichilema is demanding for the nullification of the declaration that Edgar Lungu and Inonge Wina were duly elected have been rejected by the Constitutional Court.
Meanwhile, Registrar of the Constitutional Court Kelvin Limbani has told the court that the Judiciary has no space to accommodate the custody and retention of ballot papers and other documentation used in the August 11, 2016 elections as demanded by the UPND.
This is in a petition where Mr Hichilema and his vice-president Geoffrey Mwamba are, among others, demanding for the nullification of the announcement by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) that Mr Lungu and Ms Wina were duly elected President-elect and Vice-President-elect, respectively.
Mr Hichilema and Mr Mwamba have argued that Mr Lungu and Ms Wina were fraudulently declared winners and, as such, the declaration should be nullified.
The UPND when filing the petition also filed about 22 witness statements after which they filed 52 and, further, some more.
But Mr Lungu and Ms Wina’s lawyers argued that filing of witness statements could not be done in installments but must be by one act and in one day as the witness statements must be filed contemporaneously with the petition.
The Constitutional Court has, however, rejected the 52 witness statements on grounds that the filing of the statements was in contravention of the mandatory rules that prescribe that a petition should be filed together with the witness statements.
Further, Mr Lungu, Ms Wina and Attorney General Likando Kalaluka have argued that the application by Mr Hichilema relating to the enforcement of rights under the Bill of Rights should have been made in the High Court and not in the Constitutional Court.
They argued in the respondents’ skeleton arguments in support of notice of motion to strike out portions of the petition for irregularity and want of jurisdiction that the allegation by Mr Hichilema and Mr Mwamba that Mr Lungu and Ms Wina breached the Constitution in that they denied them their right to the enjoyment of their freedoms as guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution could not be heard by the Constitutional Court but the High Court.
The lawyers argued that under the provisions of Order 18 of the White Book, any pleading such as a petition which is frivolous or vexatious like Mr Hichilema’s should be struck out or amended and the action may be ordered to be stayed.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court registrar told the court that the Judiciary had no capacity to preserve and keep materials used in the elections pending the determination of the petition.
Mr Limbani submitted that the Judiciary had no space to accommodate the material as it is currently experiencing acute shortage of office accommodation and courtroom space for its judges and other officers.
He said that the shortage of office accommodation for judges had led to some judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court to be utilising the conference rooms as offices.
The hearing of Mr Hichilema’s interim injunction for an order of custody, detention and preservation of materials used in the election failed to take off for the third time because both parties were not ready.
The matter comes up today.