ss=”f”>Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/7/13
By LINDA NYONDO
MINISTER of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu says former President Rupiah Banda was stopped from travelling to South Africa yesterday because he is under a travel ‘embargo’.
Mr Lungu said Mr Banda was denied exit because he could tamper with evidence and witnesses in investigations against him for alleged corruption and abuse of authority of office.
He said Mr Banda’s exit would be prejudicial to on-going investigations against him as part of the probe involves gathering evidence from outside Zambia.
“The embargo will only be lifted when investigative wings inform government that it is alright for the former president to travel. Government has given standing instructions to different investigative wings to be alert and not allow Mr Banda to go outside the country without clearance.
Our worry and concern is that if Mr Banda is allowed to go outside the country, there is a high likelihood that he may tamper with evidence and witnesses or sabotage investigations altogether,” he said.
“I don’t know if Mr Banda knows or does not know about the travel embargo but the immigration department knows,” said Mr Lungu warning detractors that “jungle law is not law and this government will enforce the law to the letter to avoid anarchy.”
The minister said he read about the court ruling granting Mr Banda his passport but neither he nor the Attorney-General was served with the ruling and as such, they could not act on the basis of media reports.
“Immigration officers at the airport are junior officers who cannot act on a court document presented to them… they have to get instructions from their superior,’’ Mr Lungu said.
He said it was also difficult for the officers to know whether the document was authentic or not because they are not experts.
He said the government respects the rule of law and will apply it accordingly.
“When there are such proceedings in court, they should be brought to the attention of the Attorney-General,’’ Mr Lungu said.
He said when Mr Banda’s defence team got the court order; they should have called the Attorney-General and served him with a copy of the order.
Courts of law are not supposed to interfere with investigations which are not before the court, he said.
“Mr Banda is being investigated by the joint investigative wings and in respect of those matters, our officers did not know what to do,’’ Mr Lungu said.
Government did not act outside the law and if its decision is wrong, the authorities can be sued through the Attorney-General, he said.
“We believe in the rule of law. It is an integral part of adhering to procedure. If it means we ignore the investigative wings and allow Mr Banda to travel, we will adhere to that,’’ Mr Lungu said.
Mr Lungu said Mr Banda’s lawyers have a duty to ensure that their client benefits from the court ruling by serving the court order on the Attorney- General and all relevant offices.
He said investigative wings are compiling evidence and it is not proper for Mr Banda to leave the country.
Mr Lungu said the Immigration Department would have been informed of the court order to allow Mr Banda to travel if the Attorney-General was a party to the proceedings, adding that he (Attorney-General) would have prevailed on the matter.
He said the people on the ground were not aware that Mr Banda was allowed to travel by the courts.
“If the court feels the investigations should be conducted under their supervision, this will be in breach of the long established need to separate the functions of the executive from the judiciary and defeat the rule of law.”
He said governance is a balancing act and the cry that the government is denting the image of the country by its actions is for those who do not know the act.
“If I acted on impunity, we would have gone on without explaining,’’ he said.