President Hakainde Hichilema acted within the law when he did not renew former Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) vice-chairperson, Emily Sikazwe’s contract for another term, the Constitutional Court has ruled.
This is in a matter in which Sikazwe petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an order that President Hichilema’s decision to “prematurely” terminate her employment was null and void and devoid of merit.
She further argued that her tenure of office was up to October 5, 2027.
However, the Constitutional Court in a judgement dated August 22, 2023, delivered by Justice Annie Sitali found that the Head of State was not in violation of the constitution when he notified the petitioner in the letter dated June 7, 2022 that her appointment as vice-chairperson of the ECZ would not be renewed for another term and instructed her to proceed on leave.
Judge Sitali said former President Edgar Chagwa Lungu in appointing Sikazwe as vice-chairperson of the ECZ, he specified in his letter dated June 16, 2020 that she would serve in her new role from the date of ratification by the National Assembly up to June 17, 2022.
“A reading of section 5(1) of the Act reveals that ECZ membership comprises the chairperson, vice chairperson and 3 other members . Thus, reference to member in section 5(1) of the Act includes the chairperson and vice chairperson. When sections 5(1) and 5(3) are read together, it is evident that the intention of Parliament was that a member of ECZ, be that member the chairperson, vice-chairperson or an ordinary member would only serve for a term of 7 years in total subject to renewal for another final term.
“In the present case, the petitioner initially served as an ordinary member of ECZ from June 17, 2015 to June 16, 2020 when she was appointed as vice chairperson of ECZ, subject to ratification. Thus,for purposes of section 5 (3) of the Act,the petitioner’s term of office commenced on June 17 ,2015 and was to expire on June 17, 2022,” she said.
The court dismissed Sikazwe’s argument that President Hichilema’s decision to send her on leave amounted to interference.
Justice Sitali said by reading of article 216, 242 and 270 said that whole reveals while ECZ is independent in its operations and in the performance of its functions,when the president exercises power to discipline or remove a member of the ECZ from office under Article 270 read with section 5(8) and (9)(a) of the Act,he cannot be said to interfere with its independence as the constitution vests him with that power.
“The incumbent President’s decision not to renew the petitioner’s tenure of office as vice-chairperson of the ECZ was in accordance with the provisions of section 5(3) of the Act,” held the court.
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