Ex-ministers’ refusal to pay back a threat to judicial system – Mweetwa

Choma UPND central member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa says the continued refusal by former ministers to pay back money they illegally acquired in 2016 is setting a bad precedent for Zambia’s judicial system.

Speaking on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy, Monday, Mweetwa said this had created an impression that Cabinet ministers were above the law.

“A few days ago honorable (Lands Minister) Jean Kapata said that she is not going to pay because she worked. Now that is a Cabinet Minister, I suspect that she was speaking from a position of a Cabinet position. Because those people have a collective responsibility. So perhaps the Cabinet of the Republic of Zambia has refused that those Ministers should not pay back. Now this is in a matter in which the court has ruled twice that those ministers were illegally in office and they illegally got paid. They know the law that you cannot be paid [for] a function you have carried out without authority. So for someone to say you will not pay me because we worked for that, they should go to President Lungu because he is the principal who sent them and tell him ‘sir we are now in this situation’,” Mweetwa said.

“The most dangerous thing this is exposing beyond the monetary issues that people could be talking about, apart from the monies the ministers got paid [is that] Cabinet is setting a very bad precedent that in Zambia, even if a court of law makes a ruling or order, which should bind in terms of supremacy of the law and in terms of equality before the law; them as Cabinet are above the law and that the law is below them. That is extremely dangerous and for President Lungu, who is also a lawyer, should be able to know that these [are bad] precedents in the courts. But now it is not in the courts but in the society; some people will begin to adopt them as a way of practice and bring in impunity to disregard, disrespect and frown upon the law or as the case in point, disregard or attempt to disregard court ruling because after all it has been proven the ruling party can disregard the courts and therefore, it would appear that the court rulings only bind the poor, they only bind those who are not in the ruling party. That is dangerous in governance.”

Mweetwa also accused PF of trying to manipulate the operations of Parliament.

“The statement from President Lungu and Madam Vice-President Inonge, I don’t know whether to take them serious or to take them with causality in which they were made because on Friday, her honor the Vice-President was asked ‘what is the position on this matter of ministers who stayed in office and got illegally paid’ and if I recall, it was honorable member for Bweengwa honorable Kasauta, the Vice-President advised that the member should wait for government action. Now that cannot be an answer because you are being asked ‘what action are you taking?’ And the answer is ‘wait for an action’,” Mweetwa said.

“I thought that the Vice-President should actually have been put on the spot to answer the question but you know the vulgarizes of that House; where sometimes injustices are being performed but because those performing injustices, those refusing to answer questions are from the Executive, are left to go free. These are the injustices that in the future, government through the Republic of Zambia, through its arm of Parliament should be able to rid itself of…the Legislature should be able to perform its functions independent from any arm of government. Today there is no difference between Parliament and the Executive. Whatever the Executive decide and want to bring into Parliament and want to be performed in a particular way, that is the way it will be. Parliament is part of the failures to the extent that PF has the numbers in House and machinery in the House to be able to manipulate the House and have its outcomes, to have its preferences performed within Parliament and everyone knows about this.”

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