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Sunday, 16 October 2011

PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY MUST BE LIMITED TO THE TERM OF OFFICE

By GERSHOM NDHLOVU

That Zambia has had to remove the immunity of a former president before and ordinary Zambians are at least looking at the possibility of removing that of another former president, it shows clearly the need to make the process easier than having to rely on parliament to do it. Granted that the Constitution grants a sitting president immunity well into his retirement via clause 43 and its attendant sub-clauses which read as follows: “(1) Civil proceedings shall not be instituted or continued against the person holding the office of President or performing the functions of that office in respect of which relief is claimed against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in his private capacity. “(2) A person holding the office of President or performing the functions of that office shall not be charged with any criminal offence or be amenable to the criminal jurisdiction of any court in respect of any act done or omitted to be done during his tenure of that office or, as the case may be, during his performance of the functions of that office. “(3) 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 office of President, unless the National Assembly has, by resolution, determined that such proceedings would not be contrary to the interests of the State. “(4) Where provision is made by law limiting the time within which proceedings of any description may be brought against any person, the term of any person in the office of President shall not be taken into account in calculating any period of time prescribed by that law which determines whether any such proceedings as are mentioned in clause (1) and (3) may be brought against the person.”

When this is done, it will definitely stop people ascending to the presidency from conducting themselves in a potentially criminal manner both in their official and personal capacity knowing fully well that they risk going to jail at the end of their terms. Zambians have lived in poverty for far too long while their leaders have gone on to acquire unimagined wealth most of it in matters not devoid of impropriety.
With the revelations coming out regarding the conduct of Zambia’s immediate former president Rupiah Banda in his three short years in office, it is increasingly becoming necessary for people to demand that Mr Banda be stripped of his immunity just like it happened to Zambia’s second president, Frederick Chiluba. Mr Banda himself inadvertently admitted to abusing public funds when he said “remember that the next election will judge you also. Treat those who you have vanquished with respect and humility that you would expect in your own defeat…. It is not for us to deny the Zambian people. We never rigged, we never cheated, we never knowingly abused state funds. We simply did what we thought was best for Zambia…” The extent of the abuse must and can only be determined when Mr Banda is stripped of his immunity which demands that the matter be taken to parliament going if his statement that he is ready to be investigated is anything to go by. In the case of the ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), this may be a tall order as it is short of numbers required to remove a former president’s immunity which requires a two thirds majority. In this case, Zambians must do themselves a favour by making it easy to prosecute former president by limiting the immunity guaranteed by the Constitution especially that we have a chance to work out a new document under the PF government. When this is done, it will definitely stop people ascending to the presidency from conducting themselves in a potentially criminal manner both in their official and personal capacity knowing fully well that they risk going to jail at the end of their terms. Zambians have lived in poverty for far too long while their leaders have gone on to acquire unimagined wealth most of it in matters not devoid of impropriety. When that happens, Zambians must ensure that future leaders are made accountable for their actions both in the official and private capacities. Having leaders ensconced in the bubble of the constitutions will forever leave Zambians mourning after the departure of untrustworthy leaders from State House.

9 comments:

Alfonce Mbizwo said...

Stripping a former head of state of immunity to check for possible abuse of power sounds like a way to make leaders more accountable, but in the long term I think prosecuting a former head of state should be constitutionally impossible unless there is incontrovertible proof of the said ex-leader knowingly/aiding/abetting or taking part in corrupt activities

Claudius said...

I think in Zambia we are highly vindictive. All these assertions about the former president are not worth their salt and only bent at embarrassing him and retaliation for perceived misdeeds.
If Americans were like Zambians couldn't George Bush have been in gallows by now for starting a baseless war with Iraq and causing immense human suffering?
This precedent of persecuting former presidents which started with Kaunda MUST END. Let us be civilised for once..

charity said...

Politics in Africa has turning a wrong turn and that is not a great statement. To really examin the way that the people and Presidents live will tell many that politics sometimes does not have the average Joe in Mind, As for the Zambian issue we pray and hope that it will get better with time and the leaders will not deeply involve themselves in corruption

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I mean, I don't want to tell you how to run your website, but what if you added something that grabbed people's attention?
I mean "PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY MUST BE LIMITED TO THE TERM OF OFFICE" is kinda vanilla.

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