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REMOVAL OF A FORMER PRESIDENT’S IMMUNITY IS RETROGRESSIVE

IN July of 2002 the then Republican President late Levy Patrick Mwanawa held a special address to parliament where he presented a series of allegations against former Republican President late Fredrick Titus Jacob Chiluba.

Among the numerous corruption allegations Mwanawasa presented, it was also alleged  that millions of dollars, including US $20.5 million earmarked for arms purchases were diverted from the public coffers for personal benefit of late President Chiluba, his family and associates. Mwanawasa succinctly alleged that Chiluba’s 10 year rule was marred with high-level corruption. 

Five days after Mwanawasa’s special address to parliament, parliamentarians passed a resolution lifting Chiluba’s immunity against prosecution. 

The decision the legislators made was unprecedented and some politicians like the late Dean Mung’omba, President of the opposition Zambia Alliance for Progress (ZAP) hailed it as victory for “people power” and called it “a lesson to all future leaders.”

Chiluba tried to fight for his immunity in the High Court but lost, he appealed the ruling in the Supreme Court and lost again. 

Following the Supreme Court ruling that Parliament’s decision to lift his immunity was Constitutional, Mwanawasa instituted the Taskforce to recover the stolen assets and prepared Court cases against Chiluba and his accomplices. Chiluba was charged with 168 counts of crime, prosecuted and humiliated for seven (7) years. 

On 17th August 2009 after the demise of Mwanawasa, the Lusaka Magistrate Court cleared President Chiluba of all corruption charges he was facing involving the theft of US $500,000. 

After President Chiluba was cleared, it was discovered that the Zambian Government had spent US $18 million prosecuting him. When these figures were unveiled to the public, many Zambians and some donors suspected that the Taskforce was Mwanawasa’s personal machinery for settling political scores. 

Being a nation that does not learn from history, the same route Mwanawasa took was taken by late President Micheal Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) administration. On 15th March 2013, former President Rupiah Banda’s immunity was lifted. 

The motion passed with eighty (80) members of parliament voting “yes,” three (3) “no” while four (4) were absent. 

This was after Justice Minister  Wynter Kabimba presented a motion to have RB’s immunity lifted because he held a view that during his tenure RB had abused the authority of the office, and corruptly acquired public property and misappropriated funds or revenue in respect of crude oil contracts with the Nigerian Petroleum Corporation among many other corruption allegations. 

President RB was prosecuted for two years and in 2015 he was acquitted of all criminal charges after Sata’s demise. 

Throughout the legal battle RB claimed that his prosecution was motivated by a political witch-hunt by late President Micheal Sata and his allies. 

Again proving that we are a nation that does not learn from history, today there are calls to remove former President Edgar Lungu’s immunity by some United Party For National Development (UPND) supporters and members. Last week some UPND members presented a petition to the Head of State demanding the stripping of ECL’s immunity in order to “pave the way for investigations.” 

In my honest and earnest view, the UPND’s members’ petition is raw because there is a legal process for removing a Head of State’s immunity. Before all else, a prima facie case must be established – meaning it is possible to investigate a former Head of State without necessarily removing his immunity because IMMUNITY DOES NOT PROTECT A FORMER PRESIDENT FROM INVESTIGATIONS BUT PROSECUTION.

Therefore the reason by the UPND members and supporters for petitioning President HH to remove ECL’s immunity in order to pave the way for investigations is unsubstantiated and tenuous. 

Furthermore, President Hakainde Hichilema  told us that he is “methodical” thus nobody should push him to do something, moreover he remarked during a press briefing that ‘’we shall cross the bridge when we get there” when asked about this exasperating subject. 

As a patriot Zambian my allegiance is to the nation and not individuals and I fully support the fight against corruption and any abuse of office regardless the person accused. So that being so, if ECL abused his powers he must be prosecuted because that is what our laws dictate. But learning from history, 

I have discovered that these “corruption fights” against former Presidents always end up as gainless protracted cases. 

For the sake of unity and harmony, my prayer is that President Hakainde Hichilema, who in my view has won many hearts so far including those of his critics, does not get derailed from his vision of fixing our economy and uniting the Country. History teaches us that we have lost more than we have gained from prosecuting the former Heads of State.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO LEARN FROM HISTORY.

VERY IMPORTANT.

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