Automatic removal of immunity upon leaving Presidential office – draft Constitution

Zambia draft Constitution

IN A new twist to the debate at the on-going sector group conventions, delegates deliberating the draft Constitution yesterday unanimously proposed the automatic removal of immunity once a republican President leaves office.
The delegates also proposed that Article 43(3) in the current Constitution be deleted from the draft document.
Article 43(3) on the protection of the President in respect of legal proceedings states that: “A person who has held, but no longer holds the office of President shall not be charged with a criminal offence or be amenable to the criminal jurisdiction of any court, in respect of any act done or omitted to be done by him in his personal capacity while he held office of President, unless the National Assembly has, by resolution, determined that such proceedings would not be contrary to the interests of the State.”
One of the delegates, former secretary to the Cabinet Sketchley Sacika, said immunity must only be enjoyed by a substantive holder of the office of President, as opposed to the status quo where former heads of State also carry the veil of immunity.
Professor Mpazi Sinjela is chairing the convention that seeks to analyse government structures and functions.
Dr Sacika said a former head of State who could have committed crimes must not be subjected to the process of lifting his or her immunity before they can face the law.
“In France and many other countries, when a president leaves office, there is no immunity attached. Let us confer immunity on a person who is in office because we do not want to drag a president to court,” he said.
He contended that dragging a republican President to court would impede the function of the highest office in the land and the country’s development.
Another delegate, Augustine Hamwela, said the current provision in the Constitution must be done away with to avoid the rigorous parliamentary process of removing a former President’s immunity.
“Presidential immunity must be removed as soon as a President leaves office, it should not be tabled before Parliament. A president should be prosecuted for their wrongs while in office…the whole purpose of immunity while in office is that the President should not be disturbed,” Mr Hamwela said.
Cecilia Sikatele, a delegate, said Zambia can take a leaf from Kenya, where a President loses immunity immediately upon leaving office.
But a delegate who preferred anonymity argued that the immediate removal of immunity when a President leaves office would instil fear and insecurity in the incumbent.