8 February 2013

Zambia: Chongwe Backs Rupiah Banda Probe

Photo: Nation
(file photo) Former president Rupiah Banda inspects a guard of honour.

PROMINENT Lusaka lawyer Rodger Chongwe has said the Constitutional immunity enjoyed by former President Rupiah Banda does not bar law enforcement agencies from interrogating him over alleged corruption and criminal activities.

Reacting to observations expressed by Mr Banda's lawyers Sakwiba Sikota of Central Chambers and Patrick Mvunga of Messrs Mvunga and Associates that their client still enjoyed immunity, Dr Chongwe said investigative wings acted correctly to summon the former Head of State.

"The constitution is very clear; the President enjoys immunity from prosecution and not from being interviewed by the law enforcement agencies.

"The Constitution does not prevent law enforcement agencies from interrogating a former or even an incumbent Head of State," Dr Chongwe said.

He said Mr Banda was on the other hand obliged to refuse to appear before the team of investigators if he did not wish to do so as stated in the letter written by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general Rosewin Wandi.

"Ms Wandi clearly asked in her letter if he could come for interviews, and that in an event that Mr Banda was not willing to do so, he was obliged to state so. And Mr Banda indicated through his lawyers that he was not willing," Dr Chongwe said.

"The ACC are within their competence on the decision they made and if the head of ACC wants to take it further, there are other avenues to explore such as requesting Parliament to lift his immunity for him to be interrogated. If the ACC have a good case nothing can be done but to lift Mr Banda's immunity," he said.

He said the current Government was more lenient on Mr Banda unlike the case was with late former President Frederick Chiluba whose immunity was lifted through Parliament to pave the way for his prosecution.

And a political analyst, Alex Ng'oma, shared Dr Chongwe's views, saying there was nothing wrong with the ACC's decision to summon Mr Banda as he continued to enjoy his immunity.

Dr Ng'oma, a lecturer in political science at the University of Zambia, urged Constitutional lawyers in the country to clarify the matter.

He said in an interview yesterday that calls by stakeholders to have Mr Banda's immunity lifted should not be preceded by investigations, without identifying what wrongs he had committed.

"Thorough investigations must be done and if there is sufficient evidence that some crimes were committed, then his immunity should be lifted to pave way for interrogations and other courses of actions," he said.

Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Commission head office was yesterday thronged by a heavy presence of Zambia Police officers formally awaiting Mr Banda to appear for interrogations following a summons on Monday this week.

Mr Banda did not show up as he had already indicated that he would not appear but the investigative wings followed the standard procedure as they had issued the summons which indicated that he was expected to appear yesterday morning.

Mr Banda was requested by the ACC to appear before a panel of officers at 09:00 hours.

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