22 February 2013

Zambia: RB's Camp Must Tone Down

THE level of desperation in the Rupiah Banda camp has driven the debate on immunity of the former Head of State to its lowest ebb.

It is regrettable that the debate which has national interest and intellectual connotations has been abused and laced with invectives by some people who are intent on diverting public attention.

The use of unpalatable language on a matter that has generated so much public interest does not only lack logic but also smacks of selfishness and greed on part of the 'grieving' party.

The former President spoke through his family lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, to communicate to the Zambians his misplaced message in a desperate attempt to attract sympathy from the international community.

In trying to cry blue murder, Mr Banda's lawyer ended up using words that have offended members of the public and the Government.

It is important that members of the public and Mr Banda's camp remain level-headed in debating this matter of national and international interest.

Transparent International Zambia (TIZ), the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) and many other organisations and individuals have supported calls for lifting of immunity on Mr Banda.

They have done so without abusing anyone and have remained above-board in their discussions on the matter.

They have discussed the provisions of Article 43 of the Republican Constitution which clearly spell out issues relating to the lifting of immunity of a former Head of State.

In particular, TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu has indicated that lifting immunity of Mr Banda is not meant to harass or persecuting the former Head of State, but to avail him an opportunity to clear his name.

As for the Government, it has not 'judged' the former Head of State as being guilty of any wrong-doing, but has merely responded to demands by organisations and members of the public to take the matter to the National assembly.

Chief Government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni informed the nation in clear terms that the State will tread cautiously before recommending to the House that Mr Banda's immunity against prosecution be lifted.

He said although the public and concerned stakeholders have been insistent on calling for the immediate lifting of Mr Banda's immunity, Government will deal with the matter cautiously.

Government, according to Mr Sakeni, will ensure that facts are pieced together so that by the time the recommendation goes Parliament, it would have concrete details to have Mr Banda's immunity lifted.

The Government is aware that it will be premature to rush the matter to the National assembly, hence allowing law enforcement agencies more time to provide details.

It will rely on Article 43 (3) of the Constitution which says:

"A person who has held, but no longer holds, the office of President shall not be charged with a criminal offence or be amenable to the criminal jurisdiction of any court, in respect of any act done or omitted to be done by him in his personal capacity, while he held the office of President, unless the National Assembly has, by resolution, determined that such proceedings would not be contrary to the interests of the State."

Therefore, the Executive will only act at an appropriate time and secure the resolution through the required number of members of Parliament.

We, therefore, appeal to the Rupiah Banda camp to remain calm and for now watch the events unfold.

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