Opinion

CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT

THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has just demonstrated that it wants to regain its lost credibility by being an active participant in the country’s political life in a nonpartisan manner.
It has shown that it believes in constructive engagement rather being a divisive conduit for the country’s various interest groups.
It wants to help provide answers to some of the problems being faced in the nation. That has been the cry of Zambians in the last few years.
We as a newspaper have not been one to shy away from describing the previous LAZ executive as a disgrace after the association’s failed attempt to circumvent the role of the National Assembly to pass legislation.
LAZ lost credibility as an honest broker, of being an independent advisor to the government and defender of the marginalised through a leadership that allowed itself to take a partisan stance on important national issues. It chose adversity as opposed to quiet diplomacy.
But the current executive led by its president Mr. Abyudi James Shonga has started on the right track.
No one knew for example that the LAZ executive had paid a courtesy call on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at which a number of critical issues surrounding the electoral process were discussed.
LAZ honorary secretary, Sokwani Chilembo said following the said engagement, a 20-member delegation of LAZ led by its president Mr. Shonga, met with the ECZ and the Zambia Law Development Commission at Mulungushi International Conference Centre on Friday, October 9, 2020 to review the proposed Bill on voting by prisoners in the forthcoming general elections.
“LAZ accordingly guided the ECZ on the matter, being cognizance of the Constitutional Court decision in the case of Godfrey Malembeka v The Attorney General and ECZ (Selected Judgment No. 34 of 2017) in which it was held that prisoners should be allowed to vote in the forthcoming General Elections, Mr Chilembo said.
It should be noted that some opposition parties have accused the ruling Patriotic Front of trying to win next year’s elections by allowing prisoners to vote when it was a ruling by the ConCourt that inmates had a right to right.
LAZ should be commended for explaining to some of the political doomsayers that it is now a legal requirement for the ECZ to ensure that inmates are not disenfranchised.
There has been a sustained smear campaign to try and tarnish the credibility of the ECZ from the opposition ranks, that it is conniving with the PF to rig next year’s elections.
The opposition parties, led by the United Party for National Development (UPND) have been opposed to every progressive move made by the ECZ.
They have complained over the online registration of voters even when they have been assured that it won’t be the final stage, that all eligible voters would be captured.
Another positive move from the LAZ executive is its condemnation of the continued countrywide electoral violence. It urged the ECZ to take necessary steps to curb the worrying culture of electoral violence.
We hope all political players would heed the counsel from LAZ, that it won’t do to encourage their supporters to break the law, especially those on record claiming that the rule of law has broken down in the country.
It is also pleasing that LAZ has taken judicial notice and reminded the nation that the ECZ has wide powers under the law to punish perpetrators of electoral violence which include but not limited to disqualification of a political party in breach of the electoral code of conduct from taking part in an election.
We agree with LAZ that it’s time that such powers are invoked regardless of who is involved so as to preserve life, property, democratic values and principles.
That LAZ is playing such an advisory role should give confidence to the population that they do not need to dread next year’s elections, that they would be conducted in a peaceful manner.

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