PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says all ministers and deputy ministers who stayed in office after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016 must pay back the salaries and allowances they got as ordered by the court.
In 2016 after the dissolution of Parliament President Lungu ordered ministers to stay in office until after the general elections, saying the law was clear that ministers could only leave office if the President resolved their appointment.
“If we go back to Article number 7, sub article 2 of the Constitution, it says a person holding the post of vice-president, like her honour the Vice-President; Minister, [like] Dr Kambwili or deputy minister [like] Chitotela for example, shall continue to hold that position under the Constitution until that appointment is ‘disseminated’ by the President in accordance with the Constitution. This is there, so countrymen and women, the Constitution allows ministers to continue in office, period! This is to ensure that there is no breakdown in the delivery of service by the executive arm of government, and are expected to perform,” said President Lungu in 2016.
But following the Constitutional Court’s ruling that all ministers who stayed in office must pay back a minimum of K54,800 each within 30 days, President Lungu ordered that the affected ex-ministers must obey the law and pay back without hesitation.
According to a statement from State House, “President Lungu expects Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers who remained in office after Parliament was dissolved in 2016 to pay back salaries and allowances after the Constitutional Court ruling.”
President Lungu said decisions of the courts of law must be respected regardless of positions taken by different parties hence his position that the affected individuals must pay.
“We all must respect the rule of law because no one is above the law. Therefore. the ruling of the Constitutional Court must be complied with,” President Lungu said.
And in an interview, Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe said President Edgar Lungu respects the Constitutional Court’s ruling on former ministers paying back emoluments even though he was not wrong when he asked them to remain in office.
Commenting on the latest ruling in an interview, Chipampe said President Lungu did not mislead anyone with his directive, arguing that the former ministers would have resigned if they did not agree with his interpretation of the law.
“What happens when you go to court or arbitration? Some win, some lose isn’t it ? But you have to respect the decision of the court. That is what the President has done, he has respected the decision of the court. It is not a question of misleading anybody. No one misled anybody. It was his belief and it was the belief of the ministers. The ministers also had their own decision to make. If they didn’t agree with him, they would have resigned or they would have stopped working but they also believed it was correct isn’t it? That is why they were working. So the President respects the decision of the court but it doesn’t mean that he believes he was wrong because in court, you can win or you can lose. But when you lose, it doesn’t mean that you actually believe you were wrong. But you just respect the decision because the court has to make a decision,” said Chipampe.
“You know, people complain that the courts are biased especially when the other side loses. Now this is a confirmation that this is a country of laws. If the government can go there and lose or if ministers go to court and lose, it is a confirmation that this is a government of laws. Like I said, we respect the decision of the court. So there is no interference. It is a clear case that government doesn’t interfere in the operations of the Judiciary. When the other side loses, they say ‘no, the courts are not independent and so on.’ Here we are.”
On Monday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 63 former cabinet ministers and their deputies who received emoluments after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016 should pay back over K54,000 each to the State within 30 days.
Constitutional Court registrar Dorcas Malama said in a ruling, Monday, that the assessed amounts ranging from K54,889 to K61,756 individually, but altogether amounting to over K3.7 million, should be paid within 30 days from the date of the ruling.
In this matter, the State through the Attorney General’s chambers had asked the Constitutional Court to assess the amount of money that Ministers who continued to earn a salary after dissolution of Parliament in 2016 were required to pay back.
This was as a result of the Constitutional Court judgment of August 8, 2016 which ordered Cabinet, Provincial and deputy ministers to pay back to the State all the allowances and salaries they received while the National Assembly was dissolved.
In 2016, President Lungu directed ministers to stay in office after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016.