The consequences of breaking the law are similar to telling lies. When you tell one lie, they say, you have to tell a thousand other lies in order to cover up for the initial lie. But people who tell lies, just like lawbreakers, are innovative. They always come up with the most compelling lies that outlive the earlier lies.
Today in Zambia, we are complaining about so many laws having been broken by our political leaders. We are wondering why our government is consistently embroiled in scandals.
Well, the simple reason is that our politicians don’t want to get punished when they break the law; so they keep breaking other laws in the process of evading the consequences of the original crime they committed.
The case of ministers’ illegal stay in office stands out as an example of a law that was broken, resulting into recurring ramifications. Today, we are hearing that some former ministers want government to pay them for the consultancy services they rendered during their illegal stay in office.
Former minster of Works and Supply Yamfwa Mukanga says although the Constitutional Court has found that his continued stay in office following the dissolution of Parliament in 2016 was illegal, he did not hang around to play.
“I am also giving a quotation for my consultancy during the period. We will see who is going to pay who because what we put in was more than what the people think. I am an engineer myself and it is the engineering technical issues I was putting in, so I need that to be paid as well. We will follow what the courts are saying, but I am putting in my own quotation for the consultancy,” said Mukanga.
The other week, we heard another former minister in the name of Chishimba Kambwili claiming that he did not stay in office at his own will, and therefore he will not payback any ngwee to the Treasury.
On the other hand, Chief Government Spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga says the law must be respected and former ministers who have been ordered to pay back their salaries must obey the court’s ruling without question.
But Honourable Kampamba is not telling the people of Zambia how we arrived at this problem. She is just saying that those who were illegally in office should face the consequences without realising that this matter goes beyond ministers.
We recall that President Edgar Lungu called a press conference on May 11, 2016 at State House where he announced that although the term of office for MPs would come to an end after the dissolution of Parliament, his Cabinet would remain intact.
“As for whether Cabinet will remain or not, the law is very clear, read it for yourself. The law says when Parliament is dissolved, Cabinet remains because ministers are supposed to hand over. How do they hand over when they are dissolved? Anyway since the matter will become a court issue, the courts will determine but for now Cabinet will remain. If they rule against us fine, if they rule in our favour fine but the writing is there, I am also a lawyer and I can tell you that the law allows ministers to stay,” said President Lungu.
Considering the number of times that our Head of State has gotten legal interpretations wrong, we are certain that by now, Zambians know not to rely on his understanding of the Constitution. It is settled that President Lungu is not a reliable legal counsel. That is why we sympathise with the ministers who took his word and broke the law.
We further sympathise with Zambians whose non-refundable taxpayers’ money was used to pay ministers’ salaries during their illegal stay in office. We all know that this money will not be paid back. Our former ministers don’t want to be punished for breaking the law and are now determined to break another law by ignoring the court order.
But you can’t entirely blame the former ministers because they are not the only ones who broke the law and refused to get punished for it.
Zambians will remember that after the 2016 general elections were announced, the UPND filed a petition in the Constitutional Court against the election of President Lungu. The same Constitution that says ministers must vacate office upon the dissolution of Parliament, also says a sitting Head of State must step aside during the time of hearing the presidential petition, while the Speaker of the National Assembly presides over the Executive arm of government.
Just like his ministers illegally stayed in office, President Lungu also broke the law by refusing to step aside. We are asking those who took ministers to court to consider the fact that President Lungu committed the same crime for which he must also be made to pay.