My professional/non-partisan position about the planned Tuesday inauguration of the President is twofold. First, the whole world is watching Zambia as to how far we can compromise Constitutional requirements to endorse injustice on a highly contested election many believe was taken away from a much more deserving winner. Africa’s reputation on democracy has been a mixed bag of rottenness and significant improvement; Zambia having been cited as the frontrunner on changing this perception. Save for 2001 when the election results were glaringly stolen in favour of Levy Mwanawasa, Zambian elections have not had significant cases of fraudulent conduct in the post-multiparty democracy era.
The eyes are now on Justice Irene Mambilima to save this incredibly good record of Zambian democracy. As anticipated, she does not have an easy task. On one hand, she is worried about these protracted court proceedings that have delayed the inauguration of the president, plus the attendant costs of the inauguration exercise. Recusing herself may be as good as offering a resignation, something that has not been heard of among members of the judiciary enjoying a lifetime pension (save for Judge Kabazo Chanda who took this bold step many years ago).
On the other hand, and much more critically, Justice Mambilima is the only last chance and defender to redeem the image of the judiciary following the most recent horrendous verdicts. There is no doubt even PF supporters with a conscience are questioning this injustice meted on the petitioners. And for her impeccable record of objectivity and fairness in her conduct as judge, Justice Mambilima will need posterity to judge her record. Swearing in an individual who has openly defied the same constitution is as good as endorsing a fraud. Doing the right thing will mean leaving a legacy upon which her name will go down in Zambian history as among those individuals who preserved Zambia’s legacy. Her children and grandchildren will have an easy passage in the world of opportunity by simply riding on her name. Almost everything in future will be named after her. That is how crucial this inauguration is and she is not stupid to fail to read the general and genuine mood.
The second point is about legitimacy. State House is not for the weak; its for very strong individuals whose tenure is largely dependent on national mandate. Levy Mwanawasa had it very tough during the initial years because everyone knew how he got there. What saved him was his unique resolve to fight corruption; arresting the very people who stole the vote for him. In a way, he restituted against the election fraud and he effectively used this new support to launch himself. Will President Elect Edgar Lungu go ahead with this inauguration while his key opponent has refused to recognize his election. As long as your key opponent, riding on popular support, fails to recognize your regime, no amount of international endorsements can make your presidency an easy one. Legitimacy is critical in passing policy decisions, particularly if you plan to ask citizens to make significant economic sacrifices. If they do not recognize your presidency, policy implementation fails immediately.
For this, the inauguration should not take place until the whole petition process is completed.
Election Observer 2016