New twist in the Mulobezi, Malambo and Petauke by-election saga

Dora Siliya

A CLOUD of doubt hangs over the planned September 26 Mulobezi, Malambo and Petauke polls following the Patriotic Front’s (PF) appeal in the Supreme Court against High Court Judge Mungeni Mulenga’s ruling that allowed three candidates to file nomination papers.
This is according to lawyer Kelvin Bwalya, who said in an interview yesterday: “Depending on the decision from the Supreme Court appeal, the nomination and elections may not take place as planned…it will also depend on how long it takes the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.”
Justice Mulenga on Tuesday ordered the ECZ to lift a ban on three former legislators from recontesting the seats they lost due to evidence of “massive corruption” and allowed them to file the nominations.
The former legislators are Maxwell Mwale, who wants to recontest the Malambo seat, Hastings Sililo of Mulobezi and Dora Siliya, who is eyeing the Petauke Central constituency.
The ECZ has set September 10 as the new date for filing nominations even though Mr Bwalya says everything is, “a wait-and-see situation and no-one can tell for certain which way the matter will go as this ‘soap opera’ continues to unfold”.
The aspiring candidates sought judicial review of the ECZ decision, which has been reversed after the Judiciary said candidates whose polls were nullified due to evidence of corruption must not be allowed to recontest parliamentary seats.
Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba yesterday confirmed that the PF has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court that shall reflect today [Thursday] seeking a review of the Supreme Court decision.
Mr Kabimba also expressed surprise that the ECZ had quickly decided to set an election date just hours after it received the judgment.
“We are appealing by tomorrow (today). The appeal will be in the [Supreme] Court. I didn’t know that they [ECZ] had set the election date. When you check tomorrow [Thursday], you will find the appeal,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Lusaka High Court directed the ECZ to accept nomination papers from Ms Siliya, Mr Mwale and Mr Sililo.
ECZ public relations manager Crispin Akufuna said in a statement yesterday that aspiring candidates should be accompanied by nine supporters who must be registered voters in the constituencies.
The aspiring candidates in the by-elections should lodge completed and attested statutory declaration and nomination papers before a magistrate, local court magistrate, head of a government primary or secondary school, principal of a college , commissioner of oaths, elections officers and  returning officers on the set date.
“The supporters must have in their possession their green national registration cards and voters’ cards. Aspiring candidates will be required to pay K500 non-refundable nomination fee,” he said.
He said the campaign period for the by-elections starts on September 10, 2013 to September 25, 2013.
Mr Akufuna said only 10 members from each political party wishing to monitor the election will be allowed and that the media and non-governmental organisations intending to observe the elections should apply for accreditation between September 5 and 23.
But whether the nominations and subsequent election will take place remains a question for guess work depending on the arguments and counter arguments of the “warring” parties, according to Mr Bwalya.
“What remains abundantly clear though is that in future, we will need more clear direction from the Supreme Court when they annul an election due to corruption,” Mr Bwalya said. “They must categorically state whether a candidate can recontest or not so that we are not lost in translation.”
Meanwhile, Ms Siliya yesterday praised the Judiciary for dispensing justice and exercising independence.