CONSTITUTIONAL Lawyer John Sangwa says people should not be emotional by trying to remove President Edgar Lungu’s immunity before collecting evidence of any crime committed because it can be a costly exercise.
And Sangwa says the country needs a fresh Constitution.
Meanwhile, Sangwa says President Lungu appointed more judges than any other Head of State, which affected the operations of the Judiciary.
Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix “Let the People Talk” programme, Friday, Sangwa said there was need to have concrete evidence before pushing for the removal of immunity.
“We are trying to restore rule of law and rule of law means those who committed offences should own up and they should be able to be punished for the wrongs they have committed. I know there are several petitions, which is good for the country. If we are talking about rule of law, we have systems in place, we have laws in place. I was one of the lawyers that defended president Chiluba, I went through that experience where he had his immunity removed. My plea is that let us not be emotional about this. First of all, President Lungu is safe, he is safe not because the President-elect said he is safe, but the unfortunate thing is that his ministers don’t enjoy immunity but the President enjoys immunity, he is protected by law. You cannot indict him for things he did in his personal capacity while he held office. You have to make a case. We changed the system after 2016, but no President has been indicted after 2016, if he is going to be, he will be the first one,” Sangwa said.
“So, there is a procedure, what it means is that you need to collect evidence first, you start with investigations. What happened with president Chiluba was that president Mwanawasa went to Parliament and made numerous allegations ‘no he did this’. This was before there was any form of investigation. Some of those allegations turned out to be false when things were finally investigated. What it turned out is that the country spent more money prosecuting than what they actually recovered. So, we have to be careful. This is something that we have to be cool-headed about. First of all, allow the investigative wings to carry the investigations freely. If there is evidence that President Lungu broke the law or stole money, it has to be not speculation, [but] cogent evidence. I am even offering to take leave from my law firm to go and prosecute him, I can do that if there is evidence to that effect. But let us not be emotional. The starting point is carrying out investigations first, then once evidence is gathered, take that to the National Assembly. The purpose of the National Assembly is to act like a check because there is always a danger that his successor may be vindictive, he may want to persecute his predecessor. So, a case has to be made to the National Assembly, unlike in Chiluba’s case which is what we voted for, we said Chiluba ought to be allowed to give his side of the story to the National Assembly.”
And Sangwa said the Judiciary did not perform as expected with regards to President Lungu’s eligibility case.
“Clearly the Judiciary as an institution did not perform as expected. We can for example talk about two examples, for instance; even this very election, the Judiciary could have prevented that. They could have ensured that President Lungu did not stand. Unfortunately, this is my opinion that they interpreted the Constitution in a manner that suited President Lungu, they did not uphold the constitution because there is nothing complicated about the provisions of the constitution,” he said.
Sangwa added that the country needed a new constitution.
“I have spent time thinking about how we can address these issues. Now what we need to do in relation to the Judiciary, it is not just about targeting the Judiciary, what we have to look at is a complete overhaul of the system. For that reason, I would support putting a fresh constitution in place. Because the weakness obviously we have seen, we have experimented with the constitution as amended in the last five years, we have seen the challenges that have emerged,” he said.
“I think people complained about some of the provisions. The most decent way to do that is I think to overhaul the entire constitution and which should include the Judiciary. It shouldn’t be targeted because it is not the only culprit in this whole arrangement, other institutions failed. So, we need to overhaul the entire system and begin to redo it.”
Meanwhile, Sangwa said President Lungu had appointed more judges than any other president, which affected the operations of the Judiciary.
“The Judiciary that is supposed to check what you do, after 2016 we amended the constitution and what resulted in that is that we created two new courts; the Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal and a few divisions of the High Court. I would estimate that President Lungu was able to appoint, I think more than 80 percent of the current judges, no President has ever appointed in the history of this country more judges than Lungu. The problem also is that the process of appointment is not transparent and that is something that needs to change,” said Sangwa.
“How do you corrupt an institution? You pick up the unqualified, then they know that they are not qualified, you know that they are not qualified, will they ever raise their voice against you? No! You are buying loyalty and you know that you are not qualified to be there and I have put you there, that is the extent of the corruption that has gone on. When you look at the Legislature, that Legislature in this case, the National Assembly is dominated by members of his political party, so that arm was destroyed. The other chapter for example. you had a situation of my friend Mutembo Nchito who was DPP, he was literally hounded out of the office despite the fact that he enjoys protected tenure.”