Lifting presidential immunity – A ghost haunting Zambia

Frederick Chiluba

Frederick Chiluba

By Kellies Kaunda

Countrymen and women, when we lifted Second President Frederick Chiluba’s (FTJ) immunity, we had sowed seeds of potential political instability that will haunt the nation for sometime to come until or unless we held a national conversation in which we sought to educate one another in respect of the rationale behind this privilege.

Narrow-minded views and personal hatred for FJT led to one of the biggest blunders in Zambia’s history, the removal of a former president’s immunity. Similar motivation is here with us again masquerading as national interest: the nation is clearly haunted by the ghost of its past mistakes and we are yet to know exactly what kind of price we’re gonna pay.

Presidential immunity is widely employed in modern constitutions to avoid disruption as much as possible in the management of the activities of the executive office. There must be indisputable evidence with widespread public demand for the judicial trial of a former Head of State.

I doubt very clearly if this is the case now if not for the fact that as a nation we are under some kind of spell leading us, once again, to subjecting former president Rupiah Banda (RB) to the same mindless politically motivated judicial trials that we subjected FJT.

As a nation we have become careless and reckless as far as this matter is concerned and we lack substance in its interrogation. If we want to go this direction, let’s not pretend that we have immunity for the holders of this office. We pretend to love the office holders and respect them only because they are in office and we can expect favors from them but treat them like common criminals the moment they leave office.

Let’s then pass a law that only limits immunity to the time they are in office so that every office holder is ready to spend the rest of his retirement in disgrace. This reminds me of what First president Kenneth Kaunda (KK) once said, ‘this is a thankless job.’

Chiluba subjected KK to treatment like he was a criminal searching his house for stolen State House property; former president Levy Mwanawasa subjected FJT to similar treatment; while in office, opposition MPs moved an impeachment motion against Levy (who knows what could have happened had he lived?)

If we think that this office is prone to corrupt activities, then let’s not maintain an academic veil of protection around the office holder when we can so easily remove it even at the whisper of a drunk in a noisy pub!

Kellies Kaunda is seasoned Zambian journalist who has worked for both local and International Media such as Voice of America