LAW Association of Zambia Honorary Secretary Sokwani Chilembo says while the President has the powers to pardon prisoners despite the country being in a transitional period, a benefitting inmate should not have a pending appeal before any court of law.
And President Edgar Lungu’s press aide Isaac Chipampe says he needs to verify whether Chishimba Kambwili had withdrawn his appeal when the outgoing Head of State pardoned him.
In a statement, Saturday, Chilembo said he projected that the President acted on a recommendation from the Advisory Committee as he exercised his constitutional power of prerogative of mercy, as the absence of such a recommendation would render the decision unconstitutional.
“On Thursday, 19th August, 2021 the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu invoked Article 97 (1)(a) of the Constitution of Zambia to release 60 prisoners. In accordance with the said constitutional provision, the President exercised his prerogative of mercy. Following this decision, there has been significant inquiries and speculation through various media platforms questioning the legality of the decision, given that the country is in a transitional period. This speculation has prompted LAZ to guide the nation, pursuant to its mandate under Section 4 of the Law Association of Zambia Act, Chapter 31 of the Laws of Zambia,” said Chilembo.
“Article 104 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia, as read together with The Transitional Period and Inauguration of President Act No. 32 of 2016, makes it clear that the President has power to perform functions of that office during the transitional period. Limitations on the exercise of this power are that the President is precluded from making appointments and dissolving the National Assembly. Therefore, the President is well within his powers, in invoking the provisions of Article 97 (1)(a) of the Constitution, to release prisoners despite the country being in a transitional period. A caveat to the exercise of this executive power though is that a prisoner being released should not have any appeal pending in any court against the conviction. Further, the President does not act on his own accord in exercising this power, but does so only after receipt of a recommendation from the Advisory Committee, which is constituted by the President pursuant to Article 96 of the Constitution of Zambia. It is LAZ’s expectation that the President acted on a recommendation from the Advisory Committee as he exercised his constitutional power of prerogative of mercy, as the absence of such a recommendation would render the decision unconstitutional.”
But when called to seek clarity over this matter, Chipampe said; “I have not seen that statement. If you call me tomorrow, I will be in a position to respond because I also need to talk to our lawyers. As you know, our President is also advised by his lawyers before he acts on such things. So I cannot answer off-hand because I do not know the article they [Law Association of Zambia] are quoting. So if you call me tomorrow, I will be in a position to answer because I will have to find out from the President’s lawyers and what they say about the LAZ position.”
Meanwhile, efforts to get clarity from Kambwili were futile as his phone went unanswered.
On Friday, President Lungu pardoned 60 inmates, among them Kambwili, some murder convicts as well as some corruption convicts.