By Field Ruwe
Read Edgar Lungu’s lips: “I am not behind this story but the argument is worthy following.” This is in reference to the most frivolous, politically-motivated, grandstanding lawsuit filed by private citizens Richard Mumba and Wright Musoma, represented by lawyer Rabson Malipenga. It shows how the Zambian Constitution is a tool for acquisitive politicians and individuals who use it to misinform, mis-educate and manipulate the uneducated majority in order to cater to their hidden agendas.
In spite of its frivolous nature and nuisance value, the lawsuit, served on the Electoral Commission of Zambia to defer the 2016 elections to 2020, should not be taken lightly. If successful it has the potential to plunge the country into chaos. Lungu, a lawyer, should have been quick to extricate himself from such malevolent intentions and strongly repudiate Mumba and Musoma for their attempt to hijack the constitution, poison the springs of justice, and undermine the fundamentals of democracy.
In fact, Lungu, as president, should have urged the duo to withdraw the case. Sadly, he did not. Instead, he equivocated, prevaricated, and raised red flags when he slyly referred to Rupiah Banda’s 2008 succession, stating; “there is a debate on whether RB was cheated or not cheated out of office as he should have been allowed to run for five years when Mwanawasa died.”
The aforesaid was Lungu’s attempt to unscrupulously drag the matter to center stage and set the tone for a national debate. He knows very well that no one, at national level, has or is discussing how Rupiah Banda was “cheated.” It has never been an issue. Why now?
In addressing the question I begin by quoting Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that; the law is a [an] ass – a [an] idiot.” Let me create a pastiche out of the quote: “If the law supposes what Mumba and Musoma are implying then indeed the law is an ass [donkey]. In other words, “the law, as created by legislators or as administered by the justice system, cannot be relied upon to be sensible or fair.”
It is the senselessness and inanity of the law that Mumba and Musoma are dependent. They know that in a nation of laissez faire legal practitioners, an astutely crafted petition of a political nature stands a better chance to succeed, especially if it benefits the ruling party and its president.
Back to the question: why has the duo [Mumba and Musoma] decided to ride the donkey now? Why didn’t they sue back in 2008 when Rupiah Banda was supposedly cheated of his presidency? I table two hypotheses as food for thought.
First, since Edgar Lungu has now dissociated himself from the duo and identified their lawyer a “rebel” associated with the Rainbow Party, it can be assumed that he has absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit. The move by Mumba and Musoma can therefore be best described as an incredibly well executed deceptive scheme – a falsehood in the disguise of the truth created to destroy Lungu’s reign. Simply put; it is an elaborate plan to have Lungu impeached or removed in due course.
Let me elaborate. Mumba and Musoma know that any action to defer the 2016 elections to 2020 will make Lungu, a man who has tasted power, more than exhilarated. Power is an addictive drug, once acquired it is difficult to let go. “Political power has a similar effect on the brain to cocaine,” writes Dr. Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin. “It leads to increased levels of dopamine, the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens, which can be very addictive.”
Mumba and Musoma are aware that any move or action that will make Lungu avoid the 2016 elections is welcome indeed. They set the lawsuit as a trap and Lungu fell for it with the words: “I am not behind this story but the argument is worth following. When President Levy Mwanawasa died in 2008, former President Rupiah Banda served for three years and other people are saying that was a mistake as RB should have served for five years.”
Before I segue into my next hypothesis allow me to reiterate: If indeed the Mumba/Musoma motive is a devious one then they have Lungu in their grasp. They hope a favorable verdict will be his Waterloo (his obstacle and defeat). If on the other hand the lawsuit was hatched with Lungu’s knowledge then it is a furtive conspiracy analogous to the Chiluba third term subterfuge. Like Chiluba, Lungu is creating a clandestine surrogate mechanism to mobilize support to postpone the 2016 elections to 2020.
Lungu is using private citizens Mumba, Musoma, and their lawyer Malipenga as proxies to avoid a reactionary backlash. In such an obfuscated conspiracy, Lungu exonerates himself from any liability. He can censure, denounce, disparage, and reprimand his co-conspirators all in an effort to give the impression he has nothing to do with the lawsuit. In the event the case is ruled in their favor, Lungu will reward them in so many surreptitious ways.
In both hypotheses, Malipenga and his clients stand a better chance to prevail because cases that favor or assist the president rarely fail. In a country where judges are made to measure, in other words, where justices are appointed by the president, judicial decisions are susceptible to the schematic influences of the incumbent. It can be argued that to some degree, Zambia has a pliant judiciary over which the president holds an underlying advantage for influencing certain decisions. This argument is evidenced in the outcome of myriad Supreme Court cases involving our past presidents.
The above are my two hypotheses. There are many other theories and tete-a-tetes making their rounds in academe and watering holes that are worth serious contemplation. Zambian political pundits must come to the defense of the Constitution and explain the many peripheral factors that shape our interpretations of one of the most important documents in our land. I say this because Mumba and Musoma know that the majority of Zambians know diddly-squat about the Zambian Constitution. In fact, they too may know little to none.
In conclusion, let me say this; we Zambians are accustomed to a culture of deception and manipulation. One’s ability to manipulate compellingly is a prima facie prerequisite. In the case of Mumba and Musoma’s frivolous lawsuit, once judgement is passed in favor of postponing the elections we, the malleable citizens of Zambia, shall not raise a finger because court decisions, once rendered, are adhered. We shall fearfully comply and Lungu will get his wish—in a counterfeit manner.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate.