Zambia High Court Declines to Postpone Lungu’s Swearing In

(Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s High Court declined to block the inauguration of President Edgar Lungu, in a further legal setback for opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s push to have his petition against the outcome of an Aug. 11 election he claims was “stolen” be heard by the courts.

Hichilema, 54, applied to dismiss a Sept. 5 Constitutional Court decision to drop his challenge against Lungu’s victory. The president of the United Party for National Development rejected the outcome of the vote and said he doesn’t recognize Lungu, 59, as president, urging his supporters to “fight to restore your democracy.”

“The inauguration will proceed as planned,” Tutwa Ngulube, one of Lungu’s lawyers, told reporters in the capital, Lusaka. “The court is of the view that it has no jurisdiction over such relief.”

Ngulube said the judge granted the applicants leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We are definitely going to the Supreme Court,” Keith Mweemba, a lawyer for the UPND, told reporters after the ruling. “The inauguration should not go ahead.”

Hichilema’s challenge has thrown the government into a legal dilemma, delaying the appointment of a cabinet that will need to bring in policies to restore growth in an economy that’s expanding at the slowest pace since 1998. The new leadership of Africa’s second-biggest copper producer also faces tough negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a planned aid package that will probably require cuts in energy and farm subsidies.

Lungu, who was due to be sworn-in on Sept. 13, won 50.4 percent of the vote against Hichilema’s 47.6 percent, enough to avoid a run-off, according to the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Hichilema accused Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front of colluding with the commission to manipulate the results, a claim they both denied.

Zambia’s kwacha fell for a seventh day on Friday, the longest period of declines since December, to close at 10.23 against the dollar in Lusaka.