Law professor Kenneth Mwenda has failed to categorically state whether, in his opinion, president Edgar Lungu is eligible to contest the 2021 presidential elections or not.
The PF has been pressuring him to say something on the raging debate.
Instead, the academician chose to compare the Russian system of dictatorship to Zambia much to the irritation of readers.
At the end of his article, professor Mwenda could still not state his position as expected of a learned person. After analysing literature and asking questions in an article, an educated person should state their position, opinion in the conclusion. Not to raise more questions. This is a straight fail.
The logical conclusion to be drawn from professor Mwenda’s article is that he wishes he could say that Mr Lungu is eligible but he knows what the majority of the right thinking citizens think , or he knows the truth but for his PF inclination. So he fears to to state his position.
See below 👇
Kenneth K Mwenda
After much reluctance, I am somewhat compelled to respond to the call of many good friends, colleagues and well-wishers who have been asking me lend my voice to the current constitutional debate in Zambia. At the outset, I must state that I am not here to cause trouble or to take any political sides. Mine is purely an intellectual contribution.
In examining the issue of presidential term-limits in Zambia (and elsewhere), let us take a comparative and international perspective to inform the discourse more thoughtfully.
(1) Presidential term-limit in Russia:
Article 81 of the 1993 Russian Constitution provides that:
“1. The President of the Russian Federation shall be elected for six years…
3. One and the same person may not be elected President of the Russian Federation for more than two terms running.”
Now, what does Article 81 of the Russian Constitution mean? Indeed, let us take a more reasoned look.
Under Russia’s 1993 Constitution, the President can serve for two consecutive terms. And each term runs for six years. But the said constitution does not stipulate the total number of terms that a President can serve. So, a former president can seek re-election after ‘cooling off’ for one term and then bouncing back as President. Indeed, you can keep ‘cooling off’ after every two terms and then bouncing back. Nothing stops you from doing so.
(2) Presidential term-limit in the USA:
Section 1 of the Twenty-Second (22nd) Amendment of the US Constitution provides as follows:
“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once…”
Now, what does this US constitutional provision entail? Again, let us take a more reasoned look.
The US Constitution, unlike the Russian one, does not talk about ‘more than two terms running’. Rather, it simply bars any person from being elected to the Office of President more than twice. So, in the case of the US, there are two possibilities. An individual can serve two presidential terms in the US consecutively (i.e. one running immediately after the other) or ‘cool off’ after only one term, and then run again for second term later. Yes, one can serve a single presidential term in the US, and then ‘cool off’, that is, if he or she chooses to do so, before bouncing back for one more single presidential term. Indeed, the US Constitution does not stop you from doing so. But that person cannot exceed two terms in total. The US Constitution also spells out what constitutes a presidential term in the event that an individual adopts and serves part of that term to complete his or her predecessor’s presidential term.
Indeed, the US Constitution states explicitly that ‘no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.’ Now, this is where the Zambian conundrum enters. And I want to make the analysis here very simple and easy for any layman or pedestrian to follow. Let us turn to the case of Zambia.
(3) Presidential term-limit in Zambia:
Article 106(1) of the Constitution of Zambia, as amended in 2016, provides that:
“The term of office for a President is five years which shall run concurrently with the term of Parliament, except that the term of office of President shall expire when the President-elect assumes office in accordance with Article 105.”
It is at this juncture that the debate enters about distinguishing the words a ‘term of office’ from ‘holding office’. Indeed, Article 106(2) and (3) of the Zambian Constitution provides that:
“(2) A President shall hold office from the date the President-elect is sworn into office and ending on the date the next President-elect is sworn into office.
(3) A person who has twice held office as President is not eligible for election as President.”
Against this background, can we say that ‘holding office’ and ‘term of office’ are two different things? If so, what are the legal implications? If not, what is the way forward, given that there is no appellate court above the Constitutional Court? And does the concept of ‘constructive ambiguity’ in legislative draftsmanship play a role here? Or, could it be a case of rushed legal ordering of the political economy by the legislative draftsman? What can we learn from the constitutional provisions of the US and Russian constitutions on the matter?
In Zambia, Article 106(6) of the Zambian Constitution continues:
“(6) If the Vice-President assumes the office of President, in accordance with clause (5)(a), or a person is elected to the office of President as a result of an election held in accordance with clause 5(b), the Vice-President or the President-elect shall serve for the unexpired term of office and be deemed, for the purposes of clause (3)—
(a) to have served a full term as President if, at the date on which the President assumed office, at least three years remain before the date of the next general election; or
(b) not to have served a term of office as President if, at the date on which the President assumed office, less than three years remain before the date of the next general election.”
Again, do the words a ‘term of office’ and ‘holding office’ mean the same thing? Then enters the Dan Pule case before the Constitutional Court of Zambia, with various commentators seeking to find out if the constitutional nomenclature pertaining to ‘holding office’ and ‘term of office’ are synonymous or not.
Now, in the Socratic method of law school teaching, we do not spoon-feed anyone with answers. Rather, we raise issues for people to think through. So, if you are looking for answers here to affirm or disaffirm the ruling of the Constitutional Court, you are in the wrong place and on a wrong forum. Such is not the intended purpose of this contribution. Rather, we seek to stimulate critical thought around the legal issues surrounding this debate. So, let the debate begin, with decorum and well-reasoned submissions. Indeed, emotive or partisan outbursts are not arguments at all. Thank you!