Presidential immunity should be restored if ex-leader is cleared

THE National Constitutional Conference (NCC) has agreed to include in the Constitution a clause that will categorically state that a former president who loses immunity should have it restored if he is cleared by the courts of law.

The NCC plenary also adopted a clause that will give former presidents the right to appear before a parliamentary ad-hoc committee to give their side of the story on criminal allegations before the whole Parliament considered the motion for the removal of immunity.

Debating Article 136, the NCC plenary observed that the Constitution had been silent on a president that had been cleared by the courts on whether their immunity could be restored or not.

Vice-President George Kunda said, in order to remove any doubts, there should be a clause that would say immunity should be restored to a former president after he had been cleared by the courts of law.

Defence Minister Kalombo Mwansa agreed and said there should be a clause for the restoration of the immunity.

Deputy Minister in the Office of the Vice-President Gaston Sichilima said if a former president was cleared by the courts, then the immunity should automatically be restored.

Lawyer Patrick Mvunga concurred with Mr Sichilima and explained that if someone was cleared by the courts then there should not be talk of immunity.

But Mbabala MP Emmanuel Hachipuka said Parliament was procedural and if a former president was cleared by the courts of law then there should be communication between the courts and Parliament.

Katuba Member of Parliament Jonas Shakafuswa said the ad-hoc committee was a democratic idea as it would give Parliament both sides of the accusations before removing the presidential immunity.

Parliamentary chief whip Vernon Mwaanga said there should be at least one third of all MPs to move a motion to remove a former president’s immunity to avoid frivolous motions.

Bahati MP Besa Chimbaka said former president Chiluba had his immunity removed without prima facie evidence.

Mr Chimbaka said Dr Chiluba had his immunity removed as a result of some allegations which were different from the ones that he appeared in court for.

Chief Kashiba said the country should be careful with the way it treated its former presidents because mistakes should not be repeated.

The clauses that were adopted say not less than one-third of the MPs should petition the Speaker stating allegations that a former president had committed a criminal offence in his private capacity during his tenure in office.

The notice should specify the allegations and the Speaker would within seven days serve the notice to the former president and the National Assembly.

After that, the National Assembly would then constitute an ad-hoc committee to determine the matter on whether immunity should be removed or not and the accused president should be given a right to be represented to give his side of the story.

The NCC agreed that the select committee would recommend to the National Assembly for the removal of the immunity but the resolution should be supported by a vote of not less than two-thirds of all MPs and the court would only try the president on charges for which the immunity was removed.

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