Friday, October 15, 2010

Parliament votes for removal of abuse of office clause

Parliament votes for removal of abuse of office clause
By Ernest Chanda
Fri 15 Oct. 2010, 16:50 CAT

PARLIAMENT has passed the Anti Corruption bill that sought to remove the offence of abuse of office from the 1996 Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Act. And Vice-President George Kunda attacked the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) for submitting against the removal of the offence.

After a heated debate on the Anti Corruption bill number 41 of 2010 which came up for second reading yesterday, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mutale Nalumango asked for a vote and those in support of the bill won.

But those against the bill, mostly opposition members of parliament and two MMD members of parliament - Jonas Shakafuswa and George Mpombo - immediately stood up and called for a division.

Deputy Speaker Nalumango granted the division and called for an electronic voting on the motion. When results were shown on the screen, 54 voted in favour of the bill, 30 voted against while 3 abstained.

And after Deputy Speaker Nalumango officially announced the results, most MMD members celebrated their victory. The bill was then read for the second time and comes up for committee stage on November 3, 2010.

Earlier during debate, Mpombo defined himself as a hardcore springing MMD member who is even more loyal than lands deputy minister - who is also party's national chairman - Michael Mabenga.

Mpombo contended that removing section 37 of the ACC Act, which dealt with the abuse of office offence, would open floodgates to corruption.

"We the leaders of this country when we amass wealth, why don't we want people to question us about our wealth? The MMD has been in power since 1991 and they have lived with this law without raising any questions. So, who has challenged this law now?" asked Mpombo.

"I can tell you that this bill is pregnant with political consequences. Why should you remove an innocent law in an election year when you need the support of the civil society and the church? I can assure you that with the removal of this law, we are going to face very severe consequences. This is an exercise in futility, and let me tell you that next year I will come and make an amendment to repeal the law to bring back article 37 if this bill goes through today."

Kabwata PF member of parliament Given Lubinda wondered who gave Vice-President Kunda the monopoly of legal knowledge.

"I wonder if there is a constitutional provision which says that when you are appointed Minister of Justice or Vice-President, then you become the depository of all the legal knowledge in the country. We have very good lawyers who submitted to the committee. The Law Association of Zambia also submitted against the removal of this law. Why should the Vice-President think that he is wiser than the Law Association of Zambia to which he is a member?" questioned Lubinda.

Many opposition parliamentarians debated against the removal of the offence, except for 'rebel' PF Bangweulu parliamentarian Joseph Kasongo who charged that most of those who rejected the bill were sent by foreigners. Kasongo argued that he wanted laws that would allow Zambians to make wealth in their own country.

And Vice-President Kunda threw a scathing attack on LAZ for disagreeing with the government's position on the Anti Corruption bill.

Winding up debate on the bill, Vice-President Kunda said Transparency International Zambia's submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Governance, Human Rights and Gender Matters were better than those of LAZ.

"The opinion of the Law Association of Zambia, it's unfortunate that the Law Association of Zambia opinion usually coincides with that in The Post newspaper. They constantly give the same opinion as the newspaper; even the submission given by Transparency International was better than that of the Law Association of Zambia," said Vice-President Kunda.

"It is very disgraceful that the Law Association of Zambia should make such submissions which are mostly political. So we should dismiss politically courted submissions of the Law Association of Zambia."

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Governance, Human Rights and Gender Matters has recommended that the government reinstate section 37 of the current ACC Act.

Reading the report on the floor of the House, committee-acting chairperson who is also Lubanseshi PF parliamentarian, Lazarous Chota, urged the government to revise the bill.

“Your committee recommend that section 37 of the current Act be retained in its entirety and, if anything, be strengthened to cover acquisition of wealth by private operators, officials in non-governmental organisations and churches, among others; provided it is not inconsistent with the Constitution. Further your committee recommend that section 50 of the Anti Corruption Commission Act also be retained in its entirety,” submitted Chota.

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