FORMER Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba says the President has no powers to lift an oath of secrecy once it has been sworn by a constitutional office holder.

On Tuesday, Director of Public Prosecutions Lilian Siyunyi wrote to the Judicial Complaints Commission informing them that she has sought clearance from President Hakainde Hichilema to freely respond to the various complaints against her without being constrained by the oath of secrecy.

But in an interview, Kabimba said it would be an offence on the part of a constitutional office holder to disclose public matters that were governed by the oath of secrecy.

“A president has no powers to lift the oath of secrecy once it has been administered or once it has been taken by a constitutional office holder. It would be an offence on the part of the constitutional office holder to disclose to the public matters that are governed by the oath of secrecy because that disclosure may go against the interests of the state. And that the oath of secrecy, although it is administered, it is taken before the President, it is actually intended to protect the State and not the President. The President is not the State, he is only under the Constitution the chief executive of the state. The oath that officers take for allegiance to the President, they do so because the President is the representative of the State,” Kabimba said.

“If you took an oath under Edgar Lungu, the fact that Edgar is not president today does not allow you to disclose the State secrets that came your way when you were under Edgar Lungu because those secrets belong to the State. So, if as a Cabinet minister I disclose something that was a State secret and that information came my way when I was serving as Minister of Justice, the fact that I am no longer minister of justice, the fact that Michael Sata is dead, does not allow me to disclose that secret. If I did, then I am in breach of the secrets act. The oath of office which is taken before the President, is not for the President, [it] is for the State.”

He said the DPP was bound by the secrets act, and that he didn’t think it was possible for President Hichilema to give her clearance.

“The DPP is bound by the secrets act and I don’t think even the President in my view has got the right to lift that or to grant clearance. Can you imagine the Army commander writing to the President and say ‘can you allow me to disclose the secrets regarding Zambia’s military hardware’? It is not the President’s interests that you are putting in jeopardy, it is the interests of the nation. The secrets act is there, it provides for constitutional officers who should take oath and if that oath can be lifted or cleared by the President, the act will say so,” said Kabimba.

“I have not applied myself to the secrets act but I don’t think it can provide for such a situation because then there will be chaos. Then it means I can go to the public and say ‘I am no longer a minister, Michael Sata is dead and I will tell this country what happened in Cabinet’. Now, what happened in Cabinet is in the interests of the nation, not in the interests of Michael Sata. So, I don’t believe it is possible for HH to clear the DPP because if you look at the intelligence officers, for example, if he is giving evidence, they will do it in-camera.”