Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu says President Edgar Lungu has no powers to release his political rival Hakainde Hichilema from prison even if they kissed and hugged today.
And Makebi says government has no intentions to close down certain publications but has powers under Chapter 112 of the laws of Zambia to regulate what can be published.
Speaking at a Patriotic Front interactive forum today, Makebi, who is also Malambo PF member of parliament, said President Lungu still would not have powers to release HH if the two reconciled today.
He was responding to a question from one of the journalists who wanted to know in what capacity President Lungu “allowed” Catholic Bishops to visit HH when he constantly said he was not involved with his arrest.
“The President can only release some from custody after they have been convicted through a pardon. In between, there is no other process which secures a release. A visitation of someone who is in custody is not a release, so the two cannot be equated. And in this particular case, the Catholic Bishops have said they need to go and visit him for purposes of securing dialogue or indeed seeing to it that the parties dialogue over issues that they may have between UPND and PF or indeed UPND and government to facilitate for such dialogue. But I am sure that this dialogue does not include anything to do with the release of HH because the President does not have such powers. Assuming today that HH says ‘okay, what I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have gone in the manner I went about’, we have reconciled, we kiss and hug and make up, still the President would have no power to say ‘release him’ because he has no such powers in the first place,” Makebi said.
“So whoever would want to facilitate the dialogue, as the Patriotic Front we have always been open to dialogue and we want to dialogue for purposes of having peace in the country…but in pursuit of that peace, we will not break any law. We will do everything by the book in order to achieve that peace. If today, there was a reconciliation as it is being referred to, still, the President would have no power to have him released from custody.”
He noted that the Catholic Bishops did not need to seek permission from President Lungu to visit HH saying the Head of State simply affirmed their right.
Take a listen:
“Once HH is in custody, he is in the hands of the executive. The executive is an arm of government being led by the President and because it is being led by the president, he is in charge of all facilities…that is why when the police come to you they say ‘in the name of the president’, all that they execute they execute for and on behalf of the President. But as regards the powers to release a person out of custody without due process, the President does not have that power. In fact, the Catholics did not even need to ask for permission from the President if they needed to go and visit. The fact that they did does not in any way insinuate that they did not have that power in the first place. But the President saying you can go and visit is simply an affirmation of the right which they already have unless for security reasons it is stated by the courts as to why certain people cannot visit a person in custody, any other person will be free to visit,” Makebi said.
And Makebi said government did not intend to close down any media houses but to regulate content.
“There are no intentions to close certain media houses. But perhaps we need to put context to certain statements. I am not aware as to who may have issued that statement to say there are intentions but I can say bluntly that there are no intentions to close certain media houses. However, under Chapter 112 of the laws of Zambia, it gives leverage under the regulations to be able to state what ought not be published,” said Makebi.
“I will give you an example, if there is an investigation that is going on as relates to whatever may happen causing apprehension, and the release of that information or if you have that information, it would lead to the perpertrators being aware of exactly what is being investigated on and is capable of disturbing the investigations, government can say please, do not release this information because it is capable of hindering the investigations that are going on. That happens in every democratic society, that is not in any way to mean closing down. But we may regulate what ought and ought not be published and that can only be such as would threaten the security of the country or indeed threaten the integrity of the investigations that may be carried out.”
But at a media briefing yesterday, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja said certain publications would be regulated or prohibited.
Makebi also explained the Threatened State of Emergency and advised international media to contextualize the events that led to its invocation in their reporting.
Watch full proceedings of the interactive forum here: