By Gershom Ndhlovu
The impartiality or the lack of it of the Speaker of the Zambian National Assembly will be under intense scrutiny in the next few days or weeks depending on how he handles the request by lawyers of the former president Frederick Chiluba for parliament to restore his immunity, removed eight years ago for alleged plunder of national resources.
Only a few weeks ago, Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa ignored a request by a lawyer representing the PF/UPND pact and the FDD to move a motion by the two opposition parties to impeach President Rupiah Banda.
Lawyer Wynter Kabimba wrote: “We act for the Patriotic Front (PF), United Party for National Development and MMD members of parliament in respect of the above quoted matter. We would like to inform you that we have been instructed to peruse and advise our clients from the three named political parties the various breaches of the articles of the Republican Constitution by the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Rupiah B. Banda for presentation of the motion for impeachment to your office,” stated W.M. Kabimba and Company.
“These breaches cover the period August 2008 when Mr. Banda was acting as president of the Republic of Zambia following the demise of President Levy P. Mwanawasa in Paris, France todate. We shall forward the motion to your office for presentation by our clients within 14 days from the date hereof.”
Mr Mwanamwambwa did not even bother to respond to Kabimba who is also PF secretary general. Instead, MMD parliamentary chief whip Vernon Mwaanga is the one who dismissed Kabimba’s correspondence and described the move a non-starter.
Reacting to opposition Nchanga member of parliament Wybur Simuusa’s assertions that the PF and UPND would introduce an impeachment motion against President Banda for failing to protect the Constitution, Mwaanga said the move risked making Zambia’s Parliament a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.
He urged parliamentarians to look at the Constitution and see what constituted impeachable offences. “They should also know that Mr Wynter Kabimba has no standing to write about the impeachment because he is not an MP. According to Article 37 of the Constitution, impeachment proceedings can only be started by an MP and Mr Kabimba is not an MP,” Mr Mwaanga said.
He said according to the Constitution, the impeachment proceedings could be started when the letter handed over to the Speaker had been signed by one third of the MPs but that had not been done.
But in a letter dated August 18, 2009 to the Speaker, which was also copied to Chiluba and President Rupiah Banda, Simeza Sangwa and Associates called for the restoration of Chiluba’s immunity.
“Dear Sir, restoration of legal immunity for second Republican president Dr Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba. We act for Dr Chiluba who has instructed us to contact you in connection with the above stated subject matter. Kindly therefore note our interest,” the law firm stated.
“You will recall that following the late president Dr Levy P Mwanawasa SC’s address to the special session of the National Assembly where he made several allegations of criminal conduct against our client, the National Assembly did on 16th July, 2002 resolve to remove our client’s legal immunity to make him amenable to the criminal jurisdiction of the courts in Zambia and to allow Law Enforcement Agencies fully investigate allegations made against our client.
“The decision by Parliament was immediately followed by our client’s arrest and prosecution, which he endured for the last 7 years. As you no doubt should be aware, our client has now been cleared of all allegations brought against him following his acquittal by the Subordinate Court of the First Class.”
Speaking to journalists recently, President Banda said he respected the judiciary, parliament and the executive because the separation of powers made government and Zambia, a peaceful nation.
“I very much respect the judiciary, parliament and the executive because the separation of powers makes government and Zambia a peaceful nation,” President Banda said.
But considering that in the last 10 months of Mr Banda’s presidency, Chiluba who was a pariah under the late Mwanawasa, ‘s presidency the man who removed his predecessor’s immunity, he has gotten closer to State House and in the weeks before judgment, Mr Banda described Chiluba as a “damn good president.”
In this case, the spotlight will now shift to the National Assembly as citizens await Speaker Mwanamwambwa’s decision on a matter instigated by Chiluba’s lawyers when a few weeks earlier he dismissed a matter instigated by lawyers acting for the opposition.
Mwanamwambwa has in the past made decisions that appeared to favour the ruling party such as his refusal to declare vacant seats of over 25 PF MPs who have been expelled from the party for defying the directive for them not to participate in the on-going National Constitution Conference to rewrite the Constitution.