By E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), MA, MDiv.
The New Year is finally here. We should all be relieved that the year 2013 has come to an end. Each New Year brings to us a fresh perspective on life. And for Zambia, we all should expect a renewed look at what would make our nation better and greater. The shape of any nation is continually fashioned by people and events. In this New Year 2014 there are several events and people I see shaping the way the fabric of our nation shall unfold.
The Year of GBM
Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) is likely to affect the political field more than any other person this year. GBM’s high profile end-of-year resignation from President Sata’s cabinet has created some perception that he is a courageous politician. In this fresh perception, it does not matter that GBM’s resignation might have been caused by his loss of influence within the PF (Team A v Team B). All that seem to matter to his supporters is that he has shown some courage by quitting and standing up to his former boss. GBM will do well to leverage this momentum. It therefore matters how he will handle himself especially in the coming few weeks.
To benefit from this momentum, GBM could choose to launch a political party of his own. But that would be a serious mistake. Launching a new party would only go to crowd an already over-bloated opposition scene. What he needs to do is to be more calculating. The two choices that come to mind are either the MMD or the UPND. Going to MMD has some risk involved. The MMD is a compromised brand. Having another powerful Bemba in MMD, after Nevers Mumba, would prove problematic for GBM. The most formidable step GBM can take is to collaborate with the UPND. This choice would almost certainly be mutually beneficial for both GBM and Hakainde Hichilema. Such a move would make the UPND strong enough to be a serious contender to power in 2016. If GBM were to join the UPND, he could become its Vice-President. In this arrangement, the goal is not to get the Bemba vote to UPND, but to bring the urban vote gravitas to the UPND. As it stands now, GBM cannot dislodge the PF’s stronghold in Bemba-speaking areas in the Luapula-Muchinga corridor. But most certainly, GBM does have the aura in the urban areas to dissuade Lusaka and Copperbelt from continuing with the PF.
In 2014, the political front is not likely to bring any surprises. In the seats that have been nullified, we expect the PF to win in its traditional areas and the opposition to win in their respective areas. It is quite unlikely that the PF will perform well in these by-elections. The MMD is likely to lose some seats to the UPND especially in areas such as Northwestern Province and Barotseland. As far as the Eastern Province is concerned, Nevers Mumba’s MMD is likely to win all the by-elections held there.
The Year of Justice Chibesakunda & Chikopa
The Supreme Court will be determining important cases this year. One case that is likely to return to the bench is the Mutuna case, which is being handled by Ndola High Court Judge Siavwapa. I have named this case Mutuna II to differentiate it from the first Mutuna case, which the Supreme Court has already dealt with. What is unusual with Mutuna II is that Judge Siavwapa has maintained that what Mutuna and others are looking for in Mutuna II is quite different from what they wanted in Mutuna I. By distinguishing issues, Siavwapa does seem to have rejected the idea that he is bound by the stare decisis in Mutuna I. We should all closely watch this court case. It will be one of the most significant cases of the year. The fact that this Mutuna II case has stayed the Chikopa Tribunal is also significant. It is quite interesting that 2 years after Chikopa, this tribunal is yet to begin sitting.
The Supreme Court is also likely to hear the case against Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda. In this case, the Law Association of Zambia is challenging Chibesakunda’s occupation of office of Chief Justice. This case is likely to divide the court and in turn is likely to divide the members of the Zambian bar themselves. With about thirty lawyers involved in this court case, it will be one of the greatest cases in the nation’s history. In view of this, Justice Chibesakunda could decide to resign before the hearing. She could also decide to stay and fight it out. If she stays to fight it out, the fights might themselves create a perception among citizens that the judiciary is alienated. For an already mistrusted court, this is the last thing they would want associated with them.
Year of Nullifications
Nullifications of parliamentary seats are likely to continue this year. I do not think that the Supreme Court is nullifying these seats due to some ulterior motive. But I think there is fundamental misinterpretation of the law on the judges’ part. It seems like all the judges do seem to be following a clear pattern. They find an irregularity and this irregularity leads to automatic nullification. This has been the case in almost each of the cases heard by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court does seem to misunderstand the real purpose behind electoral laws. And this is a common misconception that any court can make. In my opinion, for a seat to be nullified at least three questions should be answered in the affirmative.
First, was there a malpractice or electoral irregularity? The second question should be; “was the malpractice or the irregularity so grave as to affect the electoral outcome”? The third question should be, taking into account public policy and interest should the election be nullified? Answering all these in the affirmative should lead to nullification.
It would be a serious mistake if any malpractice or irregularity will automatically lead to nullification, as is the case now. Again, I think the Supreme Court judges have done a great disservice to the nation in the way they continue to interpret and implement the Electoral Act. That being the case, I do not think that they are nullifying seats due to some hidden conspiracy.
The Year of More Kaloba
In terms of economics, things are not looking very bright. If the don’t kubeba government continues along this path, Zambia is likely to continue on its path of accumulating kaloba at unprecedented levels. This year is likely to be the year of more kaloba. Finance Minister Chikwanda’s last act of the last year was to sign a 20-year kaloba in millions of dollars with the Chinese. It is not good for our country to accumulate pre-HIPC debt loads. It is unacceptable. The thing is, Chikwanda’s coffers are dry and in order for him to deliver the so many extreme promises the PF have made he has to resort to borrowing.
50 Years Jubilee
Zambia will be 50 years old this year. This calls for celebration. However, the true celebration should be with the way President Sata decides to rule the nation. He must backtrack on debts. He must also improve his human rights record. At 50, the police should not be detaining people simply for possessing Vermox. Several journalists will be in court in a few days time. They are facing charges connected to their work. In this year, we should all apply the necessary pressure upon government to desist from abrogating press freedom.
Kenneth Kaunda Will be 90!
On a good note, this year Kenneth David Kaunda will be turning 90. And at this age, Kenneth Kaunda will be one of those that will shape Zambia in 2014. It will matter how Kaunda celebrates his 90 years. I just hope that he will not spend it as a partisan demagogue, but as a true compatriot of the people of Zambia. Kaunda belongs to all Zambians. He does not belong to the PF alone and the sooner he realizes that, the better.
Happy New Year Zambia.