Justice minister Wynter Kabimba says the PF government will propose a motion in the National Assembly to seek parliament’s approval to lift the immunity of former republican president Rupiah Banda.
Kabimba told The Post newspaper that Banda’s refusal to comply with the invitation by the ACC for an interview leaves the government with no choice but to go to Parliament and ask the House to lift his immunity and decide his fate.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) last Thursday summoned Banda for an interview relating to allegations of corruption and other criminal activities during his presidency but the former head of state declined, claiming immunity from prosecution.
Kabimba, who is also Secretary General of the ruling party, said in an interview that the summoning of Banda by ACC was neither academic nor a violation of the Constitution.
He said Banda’s immunity prescribed in Article 43 (3) of the Constitution touched on the issue of prosecution and not investigation, which required one to be summoned for interrogations by the investigative wings.
“Where does the Constitution say ACC cannot call you for enquiry before that (removal of immunity) is done? It does not say that. Yes, the former president has a right not to say anything or attend the interview at all,” Kabimba said. “If you remember in 1992, the state agencies went to search Dr Kaunda at Dr Kaunda’s home. That was an investigation and Dr Kaunda did not plead immunity. So the immunity is against prosecution. The immunity is not against investigation. So the journalists must understand this clearly, not to get misled by all these comments,” he is quoted by The Post as saying.
Kabimba said the immunity was against prosecution and so the ACC had the mandate to establish a case against Banda.
“You cannot be prosecuted unless your immunity is lifted by Parliament; that is what the law says. You can even be charged, what you cannot do is prosecute. To be charged is not the same as to be prosecuted. The Constitution says you shall not be prosecuted; it does not say [you] shall not be charged for any civil or criminal wrong that you did during the time when you were head of state,” Kabimba said.
“The ACC was saying to Mr Banda, ‘come here because according to our investigations, there are issues we would like to clarify with you’.
Now you cannot claim immunity against that. He [Banda] misapplied the issue of his immunity. Now that he has been given an opportunity to go to the ACC for him to go and answer questions and without submitting to the ACC, he has pleaded immunity, we have no choice now but to take the matter to Parliament so that his immunity against prosecution can be lifted, so this is not an academic exercise.”
Kabimba said the government would ensure that Banda is absorbed only through the due process of the law.
He said ACC was not guilty of anything in inviting Banda for an interview.
“ACC was not saying to him ‘we are coming to arrest you’. ACC was asking him to go and clarify certain issues which were under investigation by ACC. Even if the ACC had established a case against him at that stage, they would not have arrested him; they would have charged him,” Kabimba said.
“All I can tell you is that we shall go all the way to ensure that Mr Banda is absolved through the due process of the law and also inform the people of Zambia about this matter. We’re obliged to inform the public about the status of this situation,” he said.