Could another ex-Zambia president lose immunity?


Former Zambian President Edgar Lungu

from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) DEPENDING on which side of the fence you sit on, speculation that the Zambian government plans to strip immediate past president, Edgar Lungu, of immunity from prosecution, is necessary in the fight against corruption or revives the decades-old policies of witch-hunting former presidents.

The speculation has emerged as arguably the most divisive issue as current President, Haikande Hichilema, clocks 100 days in office.

It also brings under scrutiny the pledge by the new president, at his inauguration on October 23, that the fight against corruption in the Southern African country will not be vindictive.

Some members of Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) apparently are gunning for the head of Lungu for allegedly presiding over a corrupt administration.

This has further driven a wedge between the ruling party and its nemesis, the Patriotic Front (PF), which had been in power since 2011.

Percy Chanda, a UPND National Management Committee (NMC) member, is among those advocating for the removal of Lungu’s immunity and believes the PF is complicit in such calls.

Chanda argues Lungu himself is in connivance.

“It’s on record that at one time Mr Lungu told the nation that some of his ministers were corrupt,” he said.

“As if this was not enough, Hon. Chishimba Kambwili went ballistic accusing Mr Lungu of being too corrupt and a thief.”

Kambwili was quoted as making these sentiments at the height of a fallout with Lungu. Kambwili, who has previously been charged of forgery, is back at PF where he was once expelled.

Lungu fired Kambwili as Information Minister in 2016, as part of the administration’s drive against corruption.

Chanda harped on Kambwili’s firing back at Lungu during that crisis.

“It’s not Zambians that are calling for the lifting of former President Lungu’s immunity. It’s actually Dr Kambwili who made that proposal,” he stated.

Chanda thus said therefore there was “nothing wrong” in removing Lungu’s immunity.

“Zambians are merely seconding the proposal on the motion made by Dr Kambwili.”

Meanwhile, Lungu’s aide, Amos Chanda, was earlier in November arrested for allegedly obstructing and insulting anti-corruption officers planning a search in his property.

The Advocates for National Development and Democracy (ANDD) is against the lifting of immunity.

Samuel Banda, ANDD Executive Director, said these calls were akin to witch hunting of former heads of state.

This was synonymous with Zambia in previous years, dating back to when the first president of independent Zambia, the now-late Kenneth Kaunda, was defeated in the 1991 elections.

He frequently clashed with the government of his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba, also deceased.

Chiluba’s government attempted to deport Kaunda on the grounds that he was a Malawian. His father was born in the then-Nyasaland.

Government later amended the constitution to citizens with foreign parentage from standing for the presidency.

A court in 1999 declared Kaunda stateless.

Chiluba also faced lengthy probes of corruption after losing the presidency to Levy Mwanawasa (now late) in 2002.

Chiluba was acquitted on all charges in 2009, two years before his death.

Mwanawasa’s successor, Michael Sata, also came under probe from his predecessor, Rupiah Banda, for alleged abuse of office, corrupt acquisition of public property and misappropriation of public funds.

He was cleared.

“We wish to state that this country will never develop and achieve its developmental agendas if we spend time on witch hunting and trying to dent the image of our political competitors instead of focusing our energies in improving the economy,” ANDD’s Banda said.

In Zambia’s history, the National Assembly has twice invoked the right to immunity- on Chiluba in 2002 and Banda in 2013.

Raphael Nakichinda, PF chairman for Information and Publicity, said the stripping Lungu of immunity was a waste of time and resources.

“Corruption is too rife in his administration now than it ever was even under President Lungu in just under three months of his (Hichilema’s) winning the polls,” PF quoted Nakachinda as saying.

At his swearing at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, Hichilema said his government would have “zero tolerance” to corruption.

“This will be our hallmark. The fight against corruption will be professional and not vindictive,” the president said.

At a recent press briefing, he responded, “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”

According to the Anti-corruption Resource Centre, Zambia faces significant corruption challenges with public procurement among sectors especially affected.

It described Lungu’s government as “progressively authoritarian” which resulted in increasing political violence against the opposition and government critics.

– CAJ News


























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