By Francis Maingaila
LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) – Zambia’s Constitutional Court dismissed Monday a challenge to the election of President Edgar Lungu, winner of Aug. 11’s poll.
The petition had challenged the declaration of Lungu as president and was filed by opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) presidential candidate, Hakainde Hichilema.
However, Justice Hilda Chibomba told a packed courthouse on Monday too much time had elapsed.
Justice Chibomba said lawyers for the petitioners failed to use the available time to argue their case.
"Our constitution provides a rigid time frame of 14 days for the presidential petition. The fourteenth day from the time the petition was filed on Aug. 19 expired on Sep. 2 at 23:45 hours."
"It is a painful decision for the court to take to dismiss the case without hearing the evidence, but there is nothing the court could have done considering the time limit provided to conclude the petition," she added
Justice Chibomba said courts in Zambia lacked the jurisdiction to extend the time frame to hear a presidential petition on merit.
Hichilema filed the petition citing allegations of electoral fraud, including an abuse of public resources during campaigning.
Speaking after the ruling, Hichilema told journalists what happened in court was an injustice of the highest order ever experienced in an election petition since Zambian independence:
"The ground this court has given for dismissing the petition does not reflect what transpired during the pre-trial stage. Delays by the respondents to reply to our claims and procedural requirements exhausted much of our time."
“I never thought one day we will have a situation where an election petition will be dismissed without hearing evidence from the parties. Our position is that we came to this court to seek justice, but it has been denied to [us] by the court."
“And as such, we have not conceded defeat in the just-ended presidential election where the Patriotic Front candidate was declared winner,” he added.