CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer John Sangwa says government’s inability to effectively communicate certain decisions is a discomfort.
And Sangwa says those that have been arrested by investigative wings on corruption allegations and other charges should concentrate on defending their cases in court rather than making noise on social media.
Meanwhile, Sangwa has advised affected candidates to sue United Progressive Party (UPP) Kabwata Parliamentary by-election candidate Francis Libanda so that he can refund their nomination fees and campaign costs.
Speaking on Muvi TV’s “The Assignment”, Sangwa noted that UPND was failing to communicate effectively on various issues like the fuel price increment and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“You can’t make an assessment [of UPND’s performance] based on this particular period and then write it out to say okay this is what the position is. Of course I have some misgivings, the biggest bone of contention that I have with this government which gives me some kind of discomfort is their inability to communicate with the people. Government does not exist for itself, it exists for the people, it is a government for the people. Whatever you are doing in the name of the people, the people must know. My biggest problem which I see is the government’s inability to communicate what they are doing for the benefit of the people. Here is the situation, let us take something which they bangled, which I think they did not do very well. Take the IMF issue and the fuel issue. Those are some of the issues which have generated a lot of controversy, but the point is this, the President should have owned the process and ought to have made it very clear why certain decisions had to be made and in the interests of the people,” Sangwa said.
“Because now they are being accused to say you are reneging on your campaign promises. What needed to be done was a case to be made for example where you say ‘okay fine, we promised to say there will be this, now we have discovered that we can’t deliver on what we promised because of ABC’, very simple. Now, that is why there is so much speculation in the media for example and a lot of nonsense that is going on, that is taking away from the real discourse of the real national issues that we should be discussing. The government needs to realise that if you don’t give the information, someone will supply the information. That information invariably will be inaccurate. It is the government to be able to come forward and be able to tell the people what exactly is being done in their name.”
And Sangwa urged those who were being investigated by the ACC to approach the commission with some humility.
“For those that have been arrested and indicted, I think they ought to take these criminal charges seriously and be able to get proper counsel so that they defend themselves. All these things about making some statements in the media and so forth, it doesn’t help. If you believe that you are innocent, people are now saying it is a witch hunt and everything else, focus on getting a proper team to defend you, defend your evidence. We always have a saying in law; never underestimate the other side. Now, you can be making those other things about witch hunt and everything because you don’t know what ACC has on you. So in a situation like that, it is prudent and logical to be reserved so that you approach the issue with a bit of humility because you don’t know what they have against you,” Sangwa said.
“But in any case, why should you be worried if you know that you are innocent? Because you know at the end of the day you will be acquitted. We have to respect these institutions of governance that exist to carry out their jobs. At the end of the day, if you are innocent you will be acquitted. I urge people to stay focused on getting proper counsel and lining up your evidence so that you can present your case effectively. Social media will not secure you an acquittal. It is what you [do] in a courtroom is what will secure your acquittal. It doesn’t matter how much noise you make in social media or in the press. What matters is what is going to happen in court.”
Sangwa advised the ACC to ensure they have undertaken thorough investigations before arresting someone in order to avoid embarrassment.
Meanwhile, Sangwa advised affected candidates to sue Libanda for causing them loss of resources when he withdrew from the Kabwata race thereby causing a cancellation.
“For me, it is not the problem with the Constitution, the intention [of Article 52] is good but I think there is more that we can do. If I was one of the candidates contesting this election after having spent money, I would be able to take that particular candidate and the political party to court and ask them to refund me the money. We have to make certain decisions to be costly, you have the right to withdraw but you have to think about the implication. So one of the things that I would like to advocate for is for the aggrieved parties as opposed to the kind of statements that are being thrown about, take the matter to court and challenge that particular decision. One of the remedies one can ask for is the refund of the money that they might have spent. These are things you plan ahead, you can’t just wake up one morning and say ‘I am going to be a Presidential candidate’, you think through the ramifications and once you start you have to see it through. So what we need to do is to be able to challenge this so that the court is able to give some guidance as to what the interpretations can be given of article 52 (6). Does it mean that I can simply wake up one day and say ‘I resign’ and then everything is thrown in disarray or should there be some kind of qualification?” Sangwa asked.
Sangwa also urged those who were not happy with the Defamation of the President clause in the penal code to seek repeal, otherwise, respect the law.
“We still have to maintain the rule of law. We may not agree with a certain law but the answer is not to disregard that law. The answer is to petition the relevant members of parliament to call for the repeal of that provision of the law. The answer is not to say ‘well I don’t agree with this law, therefore I will do what I please’, no! When you do that, law enforcement agencies will arrest you and you will be prosecuted. Once prosecuted, you are likely to be convicted. That is the law of this country, section 69 of the penal code is still the law. We may not agree with it, in a democratic system, I don’t agree with that particular law, but it is in our statute books. The more sensible thing to do, for example, the people you are mentioning belong to the PF all that is required is present the necessary bill before the National Assembly and call for the repeal of that section. But you don’t ignore it, you don’t challenge the police because they will arrest you,” said Sangwa.