Rainbow Party general secretary Wynter Kabimba says President Edgar Lungu should haven fired Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela from his position before the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested him for corruption in order to protect government’s image.
But Kabimba says those arguing that President Lungu is protecting arrested Chitotela from facing the law after being found wanting for corruption should know that there is no law that compels the President to fire a Cabinet Minister in order to have him investigated, adding “all ministers serve at his pleasure”.
In an interview with News Diggers! Kabimba, guided that Chitotela should have resigned on moral grounds to pave way for smooth investigations if he were a decent man.
Kabimba, a former Justice Minister, explained that keeping Chitotela in office while being investigated would not only be interference in the investigation process, but it would also dent government’s reputation that a serving minister was suspected of engaging in corruption.
“A Cabinet Minister serves under the pleasure of the President, the civil service general orders don’t apply to a Minister. He has only one document in his possession and that is a letter of appointment from the President, it stipulates your salary, it stipulates how many leave days you can accumulate in a year and it also stipulates the allowances given to you: ‘you shall be entitled to a personal-to-holder vehicle etc. So, your conditions of service are those in the letter and your service is at the pleasure of the President. That’s why when you are fired by the President, you can’t sue for wrongful dismissal because you serve at the pleasure of the President. So, all these arguments that are going around are missing the point. The President can decide to fire a Cabinet Minister any time and he can ask a Cabinet Minister to resign; he can suspend a Cabinet Minister because all those are prerogatives of the President as appointing authority,” Kabimba explained.
However, Kabimba said the law that permits the President to keep corruption suspects in government while investigations were taking place was an unfair piece of legislation.
“Well, it is unfair and it is conventionally not acceptable that a Minister who is under arrest should remain in office because it compromises the investigation. It prejudices the investigation. It is against public service convention and practice to allow a Minister who has been arrested to remain in office because it compromises the investigations. In fact, I, myself, I was at one point investigated by the ACC, but I was never arrested because they didn’t find any grounds upon which they would arrest me. So, that’s why I remained in office. But in the case of Chitotela, he has been investigated and arrested. So, even just on moral grounds on his part, if it were somebody in Europe, he would have resigned or the President should have fired Chitotela before he was arrested because this also reflects badly on the government that a sitting Minister is arrested,” said Kabimba.
“What normally happens is that the President would dismiss the Minister once the ACC or the police tell him that we are about to arrest this person, to protect the image of the government, and that’s what he (President Lungu) did in the case of Kambwili.”