It is very easy to foment strife in a nation, but very difficult to restore order and tranquility once this has been lost.
The huge jubilant and very spontaneous crowds that stormed the streets on the announcement of Edgar Lungu’s victory are real. These are the real crowds that will come out to protest if they feel cheated.
There should be no doubt that President Lungu enjoys popularity in the main population centers of the Copperbelt and Lusaka. These are critical areas for this country.
The tranquility we are enjoying is on account of the fact that the majority of people in urban areas feel convinced that they won the election through the ballot and are incredulous that the opposition UPND would suggest rigging when the figures tell the story.
That is why it is disheartening that the United Party for National Development has decided to reject the ruling by the constitutional court to lapse the presidential petition on account of the fact that the order or judgment was obtained on the application of the Attorney General, without them being heard.
This is precisely the complaint from the respondents who wondered why HH and GBM were allowed to address the court at the penultimate hour when the petition had lapsed and therefore out of time. From the address they obtained the extension of time beyond the stipulated 14 days.
The decision was made on an emotional appeal by HH and GBM without considering the position of the respondents, President Edgar Lungu and his running mate Inonge Wina, who were not in court to rebut the motion. Given an opportunity they would also addressed the court to oppose the extension.
Ordinarily and procedurally the two sides were expected to observe the same rigid time frame that Presidential petitions provide the world over.
This was not the case a decision was made on the one sided presentation by HH and GBM.
Naturally the respondents were not only slighted but it was clear that the Court gave advantage to the petitioners by making a very fundamental constitutional decision of breaching the time frame as prescribed by the constitution.
It is disheartening because the complaints by UPND are replete with contradictions and averments that are not grounded in fact but more in speculation and often from public speculation. It presents a further denial of a reality that is born from cogent and well thought out grounds.
The various issues presented by the UPND petition in relation to the administration of elections were not only peculiar to UPND but to all the other parties that participated.
It is a notorious fact that no elections are perfect, not even those held in the most advanced democratic countries such as the United States of America can be considered to be free of administrative errors, often as a result of human failure.
It is however, in the totality of the poll that the election will be decided.
Once a result has been announced it is always in the best interests of the parties to hold a realistic review of the outcome rather than exaggerate their own popularity.
Indeed, once a result is announced it is the expectation of the winning party to assume office and any delays particularly those arising from administrative queries such as petition would not only frustrate the winning party but may actually be the cause of national instability. This was the case in Kenya where disputes in the poll were not settled speedily, satisfactorily and in a timely fashion resulting in a national mayhem in which many people lost their lives and thousands of people displaced in xenophobic attacks.
In the last few weeks we have witnessed mounting tensions in the country as voters, particularly from the Patriotic Front felt denied of their victory and agitation was palpable.
The various applications by UPND president Hakainde Hichilema among them a motion to the concourt for the Speaker to assume power was a serious provocation, which, if not speedily dealt with could have led to serious misunderstanding.
A vacuum in the power structure is as undesirable as it is a danger to national security.
It is for this reason that the drafters of the constitution created a rigid time frame to ensure that any presidential disputes were quickly resolved to avoid conflict. Worse still in our case it was not clear under which clauses of the law the election was being challenged, whether it was Article 101 arising from an initial ballot or from Article 104 as provided for in a re-run.
This was a matter of great anxiety as the exercise of power resides in perception more than reality.
In the circumstances our situation was quickly deteriorating and hence the need for a very decisive resolution of the matter.