Letters

Sangwa says HH swearing-in of some appointed ministers is illegal: I disagree

Sangwa says HH swearing-in of some appointed ministers is illegal: I disagree

Dear Editor,

STATE Counsel John Sangwa is reported on Diamond TV saying it is illegal for President Hakainde Hichilema to swear-in ministers he has appointed to run ministries that have not yet been approved by Parliament.

He is also reported to have said that the President will have to swear-in the ministers again after the ministries are approved by Parliament.

I disagree with this argument. I think that Mr Sangwa’ argument is flawed on the following ground:

The Constitution in Article 116 (1) empowers the President “to appoint a prescribed number of Members of Parliament as Ministers.”

As can be clearly seen from the Article 116(1) above, it never makes reference to any ministry. It only makes reference to prescribed number of members of Parliament.

Therefore, the first question that begs an answer is: are the appointed persons ministers? If the answer is “yes,” then all of them qualify to be appointed as ministers, and therefore, the President lawfully appointed them as ministers.

The second question thst begs an answer is: what is the prescribed number of MPs? This is the maximum number of MPs that was approved by Parliament, in previous sessions, to be eligible to be appointed as ministers.

The third question is: what was the maximum number of MPs approved by parliament at its last session, to be appointed as ministers? The number is 30.

The fourth and last question is: did President Hichilema exceed the number 30, of MPs who were appointed as ministers? The answer is no.

So, if the President appointed MPs numbering less than 30, then he never breached the Constitution to appoint them, consequently, all of them were duly appointed and properly sworn-in.

What the President can do, is to re-assign those appointed to new ministries to already existing ministries where they will serve until the new ministries are approved by Parliament. After the new ministries are approved by Parliament, he can again reassign them to those ministries without taking another oath.

This is so because a minister takes only one oath, regardless the number of ministries they will be assigned to during the course of that particular session.

For example, if a minister is transferred by the President from the ministry of Agriculture to ministry of Defence, no oath is taken.

This is my position. I think I am on firm ground. I think Mr Sangwa has lost it.

This said, I still strongly believe that it was illegal and unconstitutional in terms of Articles 81(1) and 81(3) for the Constitution, as read with Order 8(3) of the National Assembly Orders of 2016 for the President to appoint Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane whilst Parliament stood dissolved, and before he took oath of office of Member of Parliament.

If Mr Musokotwane never publicly took oath of office of Member of Parliament, let him do so. After that, let the President arrange for another public swearing-in session for him as minister.

The President should publicly clarify on the issues I have raised concerning Mr Musokotwane. This is a very serious issue.

But he must be at peace with other appointments of ministers. He has committed no offence at all, He could proceed with those ministers as I have advised.

PETER SINKAMBA

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