IT is disheartening that an election petition in Zambia can take more than three years to be disposed of by our courts of law.
Three years is a long time for the electorate to be represented by a person facing a petition.
Zambia’s term of office for the Republican President or member of Parliament is only five years and if an elected representative facing an election petition is allowed to sit in Parliament among honourables and the seat only nullified three years later, the electorates have a lot to lose.
But only yesterday, the Supreme Court of Zambia upheld the High Court decision to nullify the Masaiti parliamentary seat which was held by Mr Michael Katambo who was elected in the 2011 general elections.
As stated, the Supreme Court decision has come at a time when there are less than 17 months remaining before another election next year.
In the midst of the court process in the last three years, public resources have been drawn as salaries and allowances by the sitting member of Parliament for Masaiti.
It cannot be doubted that Mr Katambo also received his mid-term gratuity last December.
This begs the question whether Zambia should allow such long court processes in the handling of election petitions?
Since the Supreme Court has upheld the nullification of the Masaiti seat, this means that Zambia’s taxpayers have been financially sustaining an illegally installed legislator. This should not be allowed.
As Zambians embark on the process of reforming their laws, our humble suggestion is that there should be a fast tracked court process so that election petitions do not unnecessarily take too long to be removed from the judges’ bench.
It is not only expensive to pay a wrong person for three years but also a cost to the Treasury to hold frequent by-elections.
For the Masaiti parliamentary by-election, it is even more disheartening that the next seat holder will only be in the National Assembly for less than 15 months but at great cost.
As we have said, it is not in public interest to allow the current court process to continue handling our electoral disputes.
There should be an independent body created specifically to deal with election petitions to stop the cases from taking years.
This special body should also be given specific time frame in which to dispose of election petitions.
This will not only bring legitimacy in the electoral process but also deter corrupt elements from making their way to Parliament to be called honourables when in fact they are not.