The Post today mysteriously removed every trace of the earlier editorial Rupiah may have to vacate the Office of Vice-President and replaced it with a less explosive, but equally damning editorial Keep campaigns within the law. Now may be the Post was just trying to hit RB twice with two separate accusations, but it is revealing that the trace of the first and more explosive editorial is missing. I hope this will become clear tomorrow - perhaps, it will resurface, and was just posted by accident - grateful if those in the know can let us know (anonymously if necessary). Normally, I would not be bothered, but it strikes me the assessment in the first editorial cannot simply be ignored and swept under the carpet. If the Post stands by what it wrote, then it should do so and not run. If it doesn't then, it should hold up its hand that it was wrong in its legal intepretation. Excerpt:
And according to the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia, the supreme Law of our country, Vice-President Rupiah Banda may on Tuesday next week after he files his nomination papers as a presidential candidate in the October 30 elections have to vacate the Office of Vice-President.
We say this because Article 45(1) (2) states that the Vice-President shall be appointed by the President from amongst the members of the National Assembly. And under Article 65(1) (2), a person shall not be qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly if he holds, or is a validly nominated candidate in an election for, the Office of the President.
Article 71(1) (2) (f) states that a member of the National Assembly shall vacate his seat in the assembly if any circumstances arise that, if he were not the member of the assembly, would cause him to be disqualified for election as such under Article 65.
We have sought legal interpretation of these articles from very senior lawyers belonging to the opposition, the ruling MMD, the government and some who have no political affiliation at all. And their interpretation of the Constitution is that Rupiah will have to vacate the Office of Vice-President if he files nomination papers to contest the October 30 presidential elections.
This will mean that if he doesn't do so, legal challenges may be commenced against him before even the elections are held. If not so, there will be serious election petitions against his election after October 30.
This will also mean that Rupiah wiil become an ordinary citizen and will not be allowed to use government motor vehicles, Zambia Air Force planes and other state facilities that are not extended to the other candidates. This may be a big blow to Rupiah's campaign. But if this is what the law demands, then let it be so.
This constitutional requirement does not only apply to Rupiah. If Sakwiba Sikota on Tuesday files nomination papers to contest the presidency, he will have to vacate his seat in parliament. This is what the Constitution requires. For Rupiah he will not only vacate his nominated seat in Parliament, he will also have to vacate the Office of Vice-President which he can't occupy if he ceases to be a member of Parliament.
We know that in trying to justify the adoption of Rupiah as the MMD's presidential candidate, Tetamashimba told the nation that in doing so, they were seeking a constitutional advantage because Vice-President Rupiah would be able to use state facilities and resources in his campaign. We do appreciate that the party in power may enjoy advantages of incumbency, but the rules and conduct of the election contest must be fair and within the law.