PRESSURE MOUNTS… Commonwealth demands answers on Post closure, Lungu’s disregard of constitution in presidential petition
By Mwape Mbwelela
THE PF government has been queried by the Commonwealth delegation why President Edgar Lungu disregarded the constitutional provision to hand over power to the Speaker when the UPND petitioned his election and the continued closure of The Post.
And sources have revealed that Vice-President Inonge Wina failed to answer queries related to the disputed August 11, 2016 elections when she met the Commonwealth and referred them to President Lungu.
The Commonwealth delegation returned to the country a week ago on a fact-finding mission following the UPND’s pleas that their petition must be heard.
The delegation’s concerns also centered around the continued harassment of the independent media after the government’s closure of Post Newspapers and its subsequent placement under provisional liquidation in November last year.
The general decline of press freedom was also another major concern of the delegation which also met UPND president Hakainde Hichilema.
“What is going on in the country right now is of major concern to the international community. These guys (Commonwealth) came back to investigate further what went on during the last elections but they are not satisfied with the answers they got from us on the government side. This made the bosses uncomfortable as they were scheduled to meet a number of government leaders to get answers on the many queries they had,” sources in the Vice-President’s office have revealed.
“You know they met our boss here, the madam (Vice-President Wina), and the problem is that she could not answer properly the queries that were being thrown to her. For instance, the issues that were top on the agenda were the presidential petition – why President Lungu didn’t hand over to the Speaker – and also the closure of The Post. The Commonwealth pressed her as to why they allowed illegalities, including President Lungu not handing over to the Speaker Patrick Matibini as expected when a petition is filed. But the Veep referred most of these queries to the President. We all wondered why she did that when President Lungu that time was out in Israel. What is difficult about answering queries on the presidential petition and closure of The Post?”
The sources said the Commonwealth meetings with the opposition and their demand to meet key government stakeholders in the elections unsettled the PF.
“That is why your saw Amos Chanda issuing that statement that ‘The Electoral Commission declared President Lungu as the winner, not one monitoring body questioned the verdict, not even the Commonwealth itself.’ There was trouble here, people were not happy that the Commonwealth met the UPND, they met civil society organisations and they wanted some state security institutions as well but they couldn’t because they know what went on and they were afraid they could have said things that would have displeased the boss, so the best for them was to just stay away. The Commonwealth wanted to find out about the Gen 12s. They asked to say ‘how can ECZ declare that Lungu is President without the final and last copy of the gen 12?’,” said the sources. “Issues of the ConCourt changing positions on dates were also raised and the delegation wondered why the judiciary behaved like that. So there is so much that needs to be answered. We are yet to see where this will take us, otherwise we also worried with the way things are going, especially with this purging of people who are thought to be opposition sympathisers or coming from a certain region. We are not safe.”
After the meeting with the Commonwealth, Hichilema said Zambians would not stop demanding for justice in the presidential petition as illegalities were at the helm of the last general elections.
Hichilema’s statement followed State House’s reaction to his meeting with the Commonwealth, saying “it is not right for the UPND president to continue posturing as Republican president when he did not win elections in six provinces”.