JUSTICE Minister Mulambo Haimbe has denied allegations that UPND has taken a position on polygamy by seeking to decriminalise bigamy.
Giving a ministerial statement in parliament, Wednesday, Haimbe said the Zambia Law Development Commission had simply made a recommendation to avoid duplicity by removing bigamy from the Penal Code since it was also provided for in the Marriage Act.
“Madam Speaker, section 38 of the Marriage Act provides that;- (a) any person who- contracts a marriage under this act, being at the time married in accordance with African customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is contracted; (b) having contracted a marriage under this act, during the continuance of such marriage contracts a marriage in accordance with African customary law shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years. Provided that this section shall not extend to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife, if such husband or wife, at the time of the subsequent marriage, shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and shall not have been heard of by such person as being alive within that time,” he said.
“Madam Speaker, it is on this premise that the committee recommended on page 44 of the report that the offence of bigamy be repealed from the Penal Code to avoid duplicity of offences in the statute book as the statute book is read as one. Therefore, if the offence of bigamy was repealed under the Penal Code, it would still remain an offence under the Marriage Act. It will be seen therefore, that rather than the speculation among members of the public and stakeholders in general that the new dawn government has taken a position on polygamy in Zambia, all that has been done is a recommendation to clear up the statute book. Even then the appropriate committee will take views of all stakeholders in the event such an amendment comes before the House for consideration. Nothing is final therefore at this stage.”
He said in 2011, a technical committee led by justice Chalwe Mchenga in collaboration with the Zambia Law Development Commission was appointed to review the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
“Madam Speaker, this topic has garnered a lot of debate across the country and the discussions and comments on the matter have necessitated this ministerial statement as the Penal Code falls under the Ministry of Justice. The cracks of the matter is whether the law relating to bigamy will be proposed for repeal when the Penal Code is being revealed. Madam Speaker, honorable members, from the onset it should be noted that the Zambia Law Development Commission is an independent corporate established under the Zambia Development commission act chapter 32 of the Laws of Zambia,” he said.
“Madam Speaker, honorable members, pursuant to the commissions functions, the government in 2011 appointed a technical committee led by honorable justice Chalwe Mchenga in collaboration with the Zambia Law Development Commission to review the Penal Code Act chapter 87 and the Criminal Procedure Code, chapter 88 of the laws of Zambia. A report of the said committee has since been submitted to the Ministry of Justice. The report has highlighted on page 35 that a person may be charged under section 166 of the Penal Code for the same conduct and offence of bigamy similar to that provided under section 38 of the marriage act, chapter 50 of the laws of Zambia.”
He said the recommendations would be considered by Cabinet, through the internal legislative processes, before being submitted to Parliament for enactment.
“Madam Speaker, the repeal of the provision relating to bigamy under the Penal Code remains a recommendation and this is to avoid duplicity on the statute book. The recommendation must be considered by the Cabinet through the internal legislative processes before it is submitted to Parliament for enactment. Ultimately, Madam Speaker, the decision lies with the Zambian people through its representatives in this August House on whether to repeal the offence of bigamy under the penal code if the amendment is made and once all the legislative processes are concluded and an amendment bill is tabled in the House,” said Haimbe.