The Law Association of Zambia (LAS) has accused President Michael Sata of contributing to a breakdown of rule of law in Zambia with problematic positions on corruption issues and what are allegedly to be irregular, politically motivated deportations.
According to a media statement released this morning, LAZ President James Banda said his association will not sit and watch the Executive arm of government abuse power and authority. The full text of the LAZ statement follows:
The LAZ is mandated under Section 4(l) and (p) of the LAZ Act Chapter 31 of the Laws of Zambia (“the Act”) to seek the advancement of the rule of law and the rights of the individual and to do all such things as may be necessary for the attainment of its objectives set out in section 4 of the Act. It is against this background that the association deemed it necessary to issue this statement in the face of recent events and occurrences in the Nation indicative of a breakdown of the rule of law. Sadly, these events and occurrences have, by and large, been orchestrated by the Executive arm of Government in apparent abuse of the power and authority vested in it.
Of particular concern to LAZ are the following:
1. Corruption matters:
The attention of the media and the general public has recently been drawn to the investigations being carried out by the Anti Corruption Commission (“ACC”) with respect to two very senior members of the Government, namely the Honourable Minister of Justice Mr W. Kabimba S.C. and the Honourable Minister of Defence Mr Geoffrey B. Mwamba. On 4th December 2012 we issued a statement condemning the behaviour of the Minister of Justice with respect to this investigation as it was a mockery to the justice system.
Subsequently, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata was quoted by a wide section of the media supporting the actions of his Minister of Justice in defying the intended interview at the ACC and declaring that he would not suspend either of the two Ministers facing allegations of corruption until it is proved to him that they are guilty of the acts complained of. His Excellency further stated that senior members of the party are not to be investigated and thus prosecuted without the investigative wings first obtaining permission from him.
LAZ wishes to reiterate that the actions of both the ACC and the Minister are inconsistent with what is expected of a well functioning institution charged with investigating matters of a serious nature such as the allegations the Honourable Ministers are facing. We maintain that the Honourable Minister of Justice erred by using his influence in the ruling party and in the Government to intimidate the investigating officers. This situation does not in any way assist in the dispensation of justice and LAZ reiterates its call that the Ministers involved should proceed on leave to allow for a free investigation which it is hoped will exculpate the Ministers. We equally call on the ACC to exhibit the level of professionalism expected of them in the execution of their duties.
On his Excellency’s pronouncement that permission ought to be sought from him prior to the commencement of investigations against senior members of the party (PF we assume), we wish to inform the public that no such provisions of the law exist. Even assuming that such a law by misfortune exists, LAZ wishes to state that such a state of affairs cannot be allowed to exist as it is a recipe for anarchy and is decidedly in contravention of the provisions of Section 3 of the Anti Corruption Act No 3 of 2012 by which the autonomy of the ACC is guaranteed. The assertion by his Excellency the President that the law requires ACC to get permission from him before investigating or prosecuting a party or government official is therefore misplaced and wrong.
We implore the Executive, for the sake of justice and good order, to observe the rule of law and allow the investigative processes and procedures to reach their natural conclusions without any explicit or implied undue influence from the executive.
2. Recent deportations:
LAZ has observed, with increasing concern, the use of the powers vested in the Minister of Home affairs seemingly to achieve ends that may not be in the wider interests of the general public. The perception that has been created by the recent spate of deportations and revocations of permits to remain in Zambia is that the power to deport is being used unlawfully against persons that are not in good standing with the ruling party or its close allies or associates.
The Executive should desist from these acts if indeed they are being perpetuated for the perceived purpose. LAZ appreciates that the decision in these circumstances is made purely in the subjective approbation of the Minister of Home Affairs. While this may be as it is, it is not in the best interests of the country. This type of conduct does little to improve the perception that the investor community will have of our country if it appears that the Government of the day is in the habit of maligning personalities and targeting deportations at companies that are not seen to be in “tow” with the ruling PF party.
To effect deportations without according the affected persons an opportunity to be heard flies directly in the teeth of Natural Justice. We are alive to the fact that the Immigration and Deportation Act does give the Minister discretionary powers but we are of the considered view that such powers must be used judiciously and it appears to us that this is not the case in respect of the recent deportations which have been widely reported in the media.
We have sufficient laws as a Country to deal with many scenarios and we implore the government to make use of such laws where an offence has been committed or is suspected to have been committed rather than effect unnecessary deportations. Proceeding in this suggested manner will promote the rule of law in that affected persons will be given opportunities to be heard and defend themselves. This is how we would expect Zambians to be treated should they find themselves in similar circumstances in foreign country.
3. Stakeholder Engagement
The LAZ has noted that despite its numerous attempts to assist the Executive with the Governance of the Nation by offering its advice on matters of far reaching legal consequence the Executive has largely chosen to ignore LAZ on such matters in consequence of which the rule of law has either been jeopardised or put at serious risk. As a key stakeholder in the affairs of the State, LAZ finds the stance taken by the Executive most unfortunate.
The above notwithstanding LAZ will continue to contribute to the development of the rule of law in this Country by whatever means allowed under the law. We will were possible strive to partner with and work closely with the Government of the day on an apolitical and non-partisan basis but we must emphasise that in the fulfilment of its mandate the LAZ will not hesitate to seek redress from the Courts of law on any matters of National concern where government actions are clearly unconstitutional and go unremedied.
The LAZ is committed to fostering development and prosperity under the leadership of the Government but reiterates that the reasonable attainment of this goal can only be realised in an environment where the rule of law is respected and observed. We therefore urge the Executive to take corrective action now to avoid a total breakdown in the rule of law.