Power and Politics

Court refers Tembo’s petition on Hichilema’s alleged use of insulting language back to single Judge


The Constitutional Court has referred back to a single judge the case brought by Sean Tembo, leader of the Patriots for Economic Progress, seeking a declaration on the alleged unconstitutional use of insulting language by President Hakainde Hichilema.

This decision followed the dismissal by a panel of three judges—Justices Arnold Shilimi, Palan Mulonda, and Martin Musaluke—of a motion from the Attorney- General (AG) to dismiss the petition.

The justices ruled that the preliminary issues raised by the State lacked merit.

“The issues raised by the respondent in their motion are essentially the same as those raised in their defense within the answer. Our court has consistently held that raising preliminary issues on matters already addressed in the answer is counterproductive and wastes judicial resources. This pattern seems prevalent within the AG’s chambers, despite our jurisprudential guidance,” the Court stated.

Therefore, the respondent’s motion to raise preliminary issues was dismissed as it duplicated issues already covered in the petition’s response and lacked merit.

The matter had been referred back to a single judge for scheduling.

According to Tembo’s petition, he argued that the word “Ukuponoka” lacked decency and respect for the people of Zambia, particularly the Bemba-speaking community in the Northern Province, thus violating Articles 91(3)(a), 91(3)(d), and 91(3)(f) of the constitution.

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He further contended that this utterance, when translated into English, diminished dignity, leadership, and integrity, contravening Article 92(1) of the constitution.

Tembo also alleged that the statement was of low standard and breached professional ethics and integrity, violating Article 173 of the constitution.

Tembo seeks a declaration that President Hichilema’s statement is unconstitutional.

In response, the Attorney General argued in their answer that the petition was prima facie frivolous, vexatious and failed to disclose a cause of action.

They questioned whether the petition raised a constitutional issue within the jurisdiction of the court and whether it was indeed frivolous and vexatious.

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