The Supreme Court was yesterday thrown into disarray and uproar when it failed to deliver judgment after lawyers demanded that Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda should recuse herself from sitting on the bench to hear two election petition cases for Zambezi West and Vubwi constituencies because of a conflict of interest.
The Supreme Court was supposed to deliver judgment in a matter in which the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) is seeking to bar former Vubwi Member of Parliament Eustacio Kazonga and former Zambezi East MP Charles Kakoma from recontesting their seats after they were nullified by the Supreme court although the High Court had initially dismissed the case.
It was a legal battle that saw the court return to the chambers three times with each resumption seeing a decrease in the number of the judges on the bench and finally the matter was adjourned after the bench was reduced to seven from nine.
The defence lawyers representimng former Vubwi MP Kazonga and former Zambezi East MP Kakoma strongly objected to the presence of Justice Chibesakunda on the bench who they accused of having an interest to protect.
The defence lawyers that included Jack Mwimbu, Cliff Mweemba and Lisimba raised preliminary objections against the Acting Chief Justice because the lawyers representing the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) were the same lawyers defending Chibesakunda in a matter in which the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) is demanding her removal from the office of the Chief Justice.
The court was forced to adjourn to the chambers three times in the protracted battle to have Chibesakunda recuse herself and when she evantually left the bench, the number of the judges automatically reduced to 8, an even number that is not the standard in the Supreme Court because of the inherent difficulties in having a tie, over a judgement.
This forced another judge to leave the bench but the defence lawyers raised other issues arguing that the judgment could not be delivered via the seven judges who had remained and this forced the court to adjourn the ruling to within 14 days.
The defence lawyers argued that there was a clear case of conflict of interest as the Acting Chief Justices’ presence on the bench would introduce an element that would vitiate the impatial determination of the matter.
On Monday, President Ssta launched the PF campaigns in Vubwi and Malambo where he introduced the ruling party’s candidates for the anticipated by-elections in the two constituencies, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had yet to pass its judgement on the matter.
President Sata’s campaigns in Vubwi abd Malambo have been described as a breach of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) electoral rules and the MMD has demanded that the Head of State be cited for contempt for knowingly breaking the electoral rules.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) has equally condemned president Sata for having launched campaigns in constieuncies that were still a subject of litigation in the Supreme Court and are wondering if the President was privy to the judgment that should have been delivered yeasterday had it not been the presence of Justice Chibesakunda on the bench.
The ECZ has also said President Sata had acted outside the rules governing the electoral process by going the Vubwi and Malambo to launch his campaigns when the Commission had not set the date for the by-elections in the two constituencies because they were a subject of a court process.
The Lusaka High Court had upheld the election of Kazonga but when the ruling party appealed to the Supreme Court, the seat was nullified.