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Zambia Court to Hear Case of Presidential Power Transfer

A boy swims in a dirty pond on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India.

Zambia’s High Court has launched an investigation into the presidential power transfer to Vice President Guy Scott following the death of Michael Sata. The High Court is scheduled to hear the case on Friday.

The investigation comes after a concerned citizen petitioned the court, saying the country’s current constitution was violated after Justice Minister Edgar Lungu, who was appointed interim president by the then-ailing Sata before he went abroad to seek medical treatment, ceded authority to Scott.

A decision reportedly was made at a cabinet meeting, that paved the way for Lungu to hand over power to Scott after the government announced Sata’s death.

Some Zambians have accused members of the cabinet of orchestrating a constitutional coup after Lungu allegedly was pressured.

Willy Mubanga, attorney for the concerned citizen that petitioned the court, told VOA that his client is acting in the interest of all Zambians regarding the constitutionality of the power transfer.

“According to him there has been a violation, the constitution has been assaulted. What is happening, the status quo is not supposed to be the status quo,” said Mubanga.

Lewis Mwape, the executive secretary of the Civil Society Consortium in Zambia, said confusion surrounding the power transfer is the reason why his group has been pushing for a new constitution.

“People who are saying it is a coup d’état are using different parts of the constitution like government has used article 38, and the others are using article 39, both of which require a court interpretation -- that’s why I think the court becomes the right place for the interpretation,” said Mwape.

Some Zambians have questioned the timing of the court challenge, saying citizens are still mourning the death of Sata, who was buried on Tuesday.

Mwape said the concerned citizen has a right to seek the court’s interpretation, but he added that Zambians instead should be considering the election of a new president.

“What responsible citizens should be focusing on is ‘how do we undertake the presidential by-election?’ Are they going to be legitimate? Are they going to be transparent, and are we going to have a new president through a [solid] democratic process? I think that is what should concern us now,” said Mwape.

He said the court ruling could have a mixed impact on the country’s political landscape.

The current constitution enables the Electoral Commission of Zambia to organize a fresh presidential vote within 90 days after a sitting head of state dies in office.

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