Saturday, January 24, 2009

Paying plunderers gratuity is criminal, says Rev Matale

Paying plunderers gratuity is criminal, says Rev Matale
Written by Lambwe Kachali
Saturday, January 24, 2009 8:52:58 AM

COUNCIL of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Reverend Suzanne Matale yesterday said paying gratuity and benefits to a former president convicted of corruption and plunder of national resources is a crime of the worst kind.

And Rev Matale said the proposal by the legislative committee of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) that members of parliament expelled by their political parties should not lose their seats in Parliament should be fought and defeated.

In an interview, Rev Matale said the proposal by the NCC that a former president who has been convicted of a criminal offence should not be entitled to his gratuity should be supported by all Zambians.

Rev Matale added that if the crime bordered on corruption and plunder of national resources, such a former president should lose all his presidential benefits and not only gratuity.

She said it did not make any sense to pay or reward a thief on top of what he had stolen, especially someone who held the highest office in the land and deprived majority poor citizens of decent life.

"...He should lose both gratuity and his presidential entitlements or benefits. Everything must go, especially if the criminality is related to corruption. He should be stripped off all his benefits. If it is proven that he has already taken away a lot of money from the Zambian people, then he has enough, he doesn't need more on top of that," Rev Matale said.

"We can't keep on pouring money to somebody who is corrupt, who plundered taxpayers’ money and national resources. If he is convicted, it means that former president already has enough, so what more money would he want?"

She observed that it was necessary to put stringent laws that would scare politicians in higher positions of office from tampering with public resources.

"I mean in this country we need a lot of money to go into social services. So, that money [benefits for a convicted former president] should be put in the national coffers to benefit Zambians. Because that former president has plundered, has taken away national resources and then we should pay him for doing that, it doesn't make sense," she said.

And Rev Matale said for the sake of discipline both in various political parties and Parliament, there should be no law to allow expelled parliamentarians to maintain their seats in the House.

She said if parliamentarians were allowed by law to maintain their seats once expelled, it would breed total indiscipline since politicians would be at will to jump from one party to another for political expedience.

"Knowing very well, we are not at a level where our politics have matured. So, as far as I am concerned that should be rejected. Should someone want to cross the floor to another political party, they need to resign and lose their seats," Rev Matale said.

"The bottom line is that is not a good idea at all. That should not even be implemented. If members of parliament are allowed to cross from one party to another at will, because there is a small problem in their party, then, it will just bring confusion in Parliament and bring de-governance issues in the nation."

She called on Zambians to challenge the NCC and ensure that such a clause was not included in the final constitution.

"I am just hoping that when it goes to the main body for discussion, it should not be adopted finally. I don't believe it's a good way to go. And I think the Zambian people should not accept such kind of a thing in the constitution," said Rev Matale.

On Thursday, the Legislative Committee of the NCC adopted a proposal that members of parliament that are expelled from their political parties should not lose their seats in Parliament to avoid unnecessary by-elections. A member of the Executive committee of the NCC also proposed that a former president convicted of a crime or any other offence should lose his gratuity but the proposal was opposed on grounds that the person convicted deserved to get their money because they worked for it.

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