Thursday, February 14, 2013

TIZ wants demonstration against Rupiah's immunity

TIZ wants demonstration against Rupiah's immunity
By Ernest Chanda and Kombe Chimpinde
Thu 14 Feb. 2013, 14:30 CAT

RUPIAH Banda is running away from crimes he has committed by going to the Commonwealth through his proxies, says information minister Kennedy Sakeni. And Sakeni has maintained that former president Banda and his former press aide, Dickson Jere, had travelled to South Africa almost at the same time as UPND's Hakainde Hichilema and MMD's Nevers Mumba.

But Jere yesterday denied travelling with Banda. And Dr Ludwig Sondashi has described Banda as a lame duck who was failing to account for his misdeeds within Zambia. Meanwhile, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has asked Zambians to demonstrate in support of lifting Banda's immunity.

Sakeni said it was a fact that Banda was behind the press conference held in Rose Bank where a plea to the Commonwealth to suspend Zambia was made.

"I am wondering how this young man Dickson (Jere) is trying to call me to tell me no I was not there. Who said he was there? I said he went to South Africa together with Mr Rupiah Banda and my statement stands as it is," he said.

"The schedules of all their movement's remains as such and I have no apologies to make. In fact when you look at the Commonwealth itself, 50 per cent of the membership are represented in Zambia at diplomat level and are able to see that the issues our colleagues raised in South Africa were mostly falsities and hold no water."

But Jere dissassociated himself from the press conference saying he had not met Banda in person since last year August.

"I can tell you I am in school (Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education). You can ask my classmates. I never travelled with RB. Maybe it is mistaken identity and what I am just saying is the minister should have checked with me before claiming that I accompanied Mr Banda to South Africa," said Jere.
Meanwhile, the opposion leaders said brutalisation of the opposition by the PF had become the order of the day.

They submitted in the report that President Sata had embarked on an aggressive agenda to impose his vision of one party state.

They claimed President Sata was doing this by positioning his family and personal allies at the centre of the economy and rule of law.
They claimed that President Sata had failed to honour any of his promises made to Zambians, for which he was voted.

The coalition said the independence of the Judiciary had been eliminated, while officials in government like justice minister Wynter Kabimba escape accountability.

They further claimed President Sata's relatives and some private sector elites had captured the country's economy which were in their hands while engaging youths to harass and intimidate and attack the opposition.

"We bring this pattern of conduct to the attention of the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat for referral to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), as policies undertaken by the current Zambian government represent serious and persistent violations of the Harare Declaration and the Commonwealth values," it further read.
But Dr Sondashi described Banda as a lame duck who was failing to account for his misdeeds.

"He wants to escape what happened to (Fredrick) Chiluba but this should not worry the PF government. They should go ahead to have his immunity removed. He must be locked up."

"Even Nevers Mumba has got to be investigated for the alleged cases he committed in Canada, when he was ambassador," Dr Sondashi said.
"There is no good reason for running to the Commonwealth when people commit atrocities and corruption in their governance."

He said MMD was not best suited to talk about issues of violation of rights as they were engaged in serious looting of Zambia's resources.

"I don't agree that opposition parties that have been taken to court on the basis of their involvement in corruption-related activities are being harassed, especially not those that were under Rupiah Banda's government."
Dr Sondashi advised the opposition to seek proper channels of communication and dialogue with government.

He also cautioned Commonwealth to be cautious in the manner they handled the matter, so as not to derail government from bringing Banda and his allies to book.

"Although I agree that the PF is making some mistakes in their governance, this does not mean that we can raise an issue with the Commonwealth, at a time when we are dealing with Rupiah Banda's corruption cases, together with his family members and friends," said Dr Sondashi who is Forum for Democratic Alternative president.

Banda recently refused to appear before the Anti Corruption Commission to be interviewed on corruption matters.
TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu said the nation would be doomed if people became complacent about the matter.

"It will be important for Zambians to consider mounting a demonstration to press for the removal of Mr Banda's immunity once information is made public on his alleged extent of plunder. TIZ also will consider mobilising citizens to demonstrate on this noble cause to press our members of parliament to lift Mr Banda's immunity," Lungu said in a statement yesterday.

Lungu said holding politicians accountable was one of the sure ways of instilling a sense of responsibility in especially elected leaders to serve the people and not to serve private, selfish and criminal interests.
He said Banda's immunity should be lifted in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly.

"We believe that in this way, Mr Banda's lawyers will be more than happy to take their client for questioning on allegations of corruption and criminality."
Lungu stated that TIZ and other stakeholders consistently advised the Banda regime to be more accountable over public funds and resources.

TIZ condemned all those in the habit of sympathising with people that had abused public resources when they were being probed.

"We want to state clearly that stealing from poor Zambians should not attract any sympathy and all gymnastics and antics meant to divert public attention from noble and legal avenues should not be paid attention to. It is a pity that the Rupiah Banda regime paid a deafening silence to TIZ's consistent warnings to avoid plundering public resources as the serious allegations of corruption and criminality against Mr Rupiah Banda do not come as a surprise," he stated.

"Further, it is not a bad precedent to lift a former head of state's immunity to face prosecution if indeed he was involved in stealing from the same people that he was expected to serve. It will always be TIZ's conviction that men and women who elect to become heads of state in Zambia should always be above board and not assume such offices with criminal intentions."

He stated TIZ would consider all available options to ensure that members of parliament do not fail Zambians if availed an opportunity to consider lifting Banda's immunity once a prima facie case is presented to them.

And Lubansenshi independent member of parliament Patrick Mucheleka said he would vote for the motion to lift Banda's immunity if it is brought before the National Assembly.

In an interview, Mucheleka said the issue of National Assembly lifting the presidential immunity of Banda was straightforward.

"I don't even know why we seem to be debating this matter. We know that it is not the first time a former president's immunity is being lifted. The precedence has been set by (late) Levy Mwanawasa," Mucheleka said. "If Mr Banda's immunity is removed, for me really, like many other Zambians, who may want to know what took place during his presidency, I have no problem with that. If anything, it is something that we (members of parliament) must do. It's appropriate that we know what happened under president Banda."

Mucheleka also called for the automatic removal of immunity once a head of state leaves office. "If you're talking about transparency and accountability, even at the level of the presidency, it's only appropriate that immunity is removed. Immunity should only be enjoyed while someone is still in office. So really I have no problem with removing the immunity of the former president," he said.

UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma, who is also Zambezi West member of parliament, said the party was wondering why the alleged crimes committed by Banda were being kept under wraps.
"I think that it is not in dispute that anybody who is involved in corruption should be investigated and if found guilty, the law should take its course. However, we are surprised with the manner the PF is taking the whole issue of corruption in general," Kakoma said.

He challenged the government to outline Banda's corruption cases to the nation.
"What have they found out? They are jumping the gun and they will find that people are suspicious and reluctant to respond to the calls, because of the way they are proceeding with the case. You see the party cannot make a decision based on hearsay. Let them lay the case on the table," Kakoma said.

Meanwhile, MMD vice-president and Mwandi member of parliament Michael Kaingu said the party would decide on Banda's immunity issue which all its members of parliament must comply with.

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