ACTIONAID Zambia says the continued stay of Cabinet Ministers in office while they are being investigated for corruption is against the country’s national values and morals.

In response to a press query, ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba said although there was no provision that compelled the President to suspend a corruption accused Cabinet Minister, President Edgar Lungu needed to protect the Constitution by upholding morality.

“Explicitly, there is no provision that allows the President to suspend a Cabinet Minister from office on the grounds of an enquiry pending on the said Cabinet Minister. We cannot, however, depart from our determination as a people of the Republic of Zambia to ensure that our values concerning family, morality, patriotism and justice are maintained and that all functions of the State are carried out in our common interest. This commitment is enshrined in our Constitution. Part II of the Constitution on National Values, Principles and Economic policies clearly outlines the principles of morality and ethics, good governance, and integrity. These values are enshrined in our constitution which the President is obliged to report to the National Assembly once every year on the progress being made in applying the values and principles,” Ziba said.

“Based on the above, the President as an appointing authority and one who has sworn to protect the constitution including commitment to uphold morality should be able to demonstrate this by relieving the Cabinet Minister of his duties to enable an impartial process to take place. Similarly, it is a moral duty and responsibility of any Cabinet Minister being investigated to step aside to allow investigations to run without undue influence.”

She said President Lungu was missing an opportunity to demonstrate the proclaimed zero tolerance against corruption by failing to act on Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya.

“While the principle of ‘innocence until proven guilty’ is legally recognized, it is morally wrong for a Minister to remain in office while facing corruption investigations or any other allegations of this nature, as it has the potential to promote compromise in leadership. The fact that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is dealing with a high-ranking official of government; who exerts so much power and authority, there is a high likelihood of intimidation and interference; either direct or implied,” Ziba stated.

“Part VII of our 2016 Constitution under Executive functions section 92, subsection 1, states ‘The President shall perform, with dignity, leadership and integrity, the acts that are necessary and expedient for, or reasonably incidental to, the exercise of the executive authority’. Although not explicit, this is sufficient ground for the President to demonstrate the much-preached zero tolerance to corruption, and the need to uphold integrity in the office of the President and government.”

Ziba said challenged President Lungu to demonstrate his commitment to upholding national values.

“Failure to exercise these powers from a moral standpoint raises a great deal of suspicion, and you cannot blame citizens when they insinuate conspiracy within senior leadership. These are defining times, in our opinion, where the Head of State has an opportunity to walk the talk by upholding moral standards. The President needs to demonstrate his principles on the call for every Zambian to uphold the National values particularly paying attention to key issues such as Integrity, Transparency and Accountability which are key among government officials who occupy public office as they need to demonstrate principles to the general public that they are managing the public resources in a prudent manner,” stated Ziba.

“It’s against this background that regardless of the absence of legal provision that allows the President to remove a Cabinet Minister on allegation of corruption. It is our considered view that based on the moral grounds, The President can still act in order to demonstrate that he upholds the National values.”

Last week Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe said there were no laws that compelled President Lungu to fire or suspend any Minister being investigated for corrupt activities.