JUSTICE Minister, Honourable Given Lubinda says there is no way he can afford to raise K56,000 to pay to the State as a refund for the illegal salaries which he obtained when he illegally stayed in office after the dissolution on Parliament in 2016. According to Mr Lubinda, that is a lot of money which he would have to go and borrow at high interest rates, failure to which his family would starve.
“Obviously, we are obliged to pay, except, speaking for myself, I don’t know how I will manage to raise all that money within 30 days. That is far beyond my monthly earning. There is no way that I can raise that kind of money within 30 days except for me going to borrow at high interest rate. So, from my personal perspective, I am still reflecting upon making an application to the court to extend the period in which I can pay this money because I don’t think it is the intention of the court to starve me and my family for the next two months,” says Honourable Lubinda.
First of all, everybody knows that our Minister of Justice is not being honest. Everybody knows that the minister is playing victim and pretending to be a poor public servant who has no source of income or allowances, other than what reflects on his pay slip. The problem with lies is that they have short legs, it will not be long before the minister will have to explain how he has amassed the wealth he has when he claims not to have any other source of income.
Secondly, we feel it is mockery for the Minister to say if he is made to pay K56, 000 in 30 days his family will starve. Zambians have been starving since the PF formed government on false promises. Zambians have been starving since the PF escalated the price of mealie meal. Our people have been starving since the kwacha depreciated and forced an upward adjustment in the cost of living. So if the minister is serious that paying K56,000 would make his family starve, he must know that he will only be joining the starvation of the people that his government is leading.
But that said, the person we really have an issue against on this matter is President Edgar Lungu. We agree with Dr Rodger Chongwe who says the Head of State breached the Constitution because, not only did he force the ministers to stay in office illegally, but he also ignored the advice of the Attorney General.
In our previous editorial comments on this matter, we did question President Lungu’s competence as a lawyer. We recall that immediately after the Head of State assented to the 2016 amended Constitution, Attorney General Likando Kalaluka went to ZNBC to interpret the new law and he categorically stated that once Parliament was dissolved, all ministers would be required to vacate office.
But President Lungu had his own hangover interpretation of the Constitution and he held a gathering at State House where he bragged that he was among the best lawyers in this country. He rubbished what his Attorney General said on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview and ordered all ministers to stay in office until new office bearers were elected and sworn in so that they could “hand over”.
We find it unfair that Honourable Lubinda must pay but the President must not suffer any consequences for misleading the ministers. Yes, all ex-ministers should pay back because ignorance is no defence in law, but we just feel there must be a way of making President Lungu pay a portion of what the ministers whom he misled are required to pay back.
If you look at Honourable Lubinda’s statement on this issue, that is basically what he is demanding. He wants the Head of State to take responsibility. He is basically telling the nation that if the President who gave the order to ministers to remain in office is an ignorant lawyer, that is not his fault. If the law was broken, he did not break it alone, there is an accomplice called Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
We also find it rude for the President to now take the front row seat in pressuring the ministers to pay back when he is the person who placed them in this position. Our considered view is that the President must be made to pay at least 50 per cent of what all the ministers owe the State. This must be done in his individual capacity so that he can learn not to be overzealous next time.