|Former Republican President Rupiah Banda|
The decision by the PF administration to revoke the diplomatic passport of former president Rupiah Banda is not only illegal and improper but it undermines the separation of powers as set out in the republican constitution. As a matter of law and procedure, therefore, the government should immediately hand back President Banda’s passport in order to uphold the law, preserve the integrity of parliament and maintain whatever goodwill Zambia is still able to muster amidst a long and ongoing series of social, political, economic and diplomatic blunders.
The Benefits of Former Presidents Act, passed by Parliament makes clear that every former president is entitled (among other benefits) to a diplomatic passport along with one return air ticket for such former president and their spouse. The only instance in which any of the benefits of a former president can be revoked is if Parliament decides by two-thirds majority to do so. Parliament can only take such action if the former president has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than 6 months. This is clearly not the case.
The action by the PF administration amounts to a violation of the separation of powers as contemplated under our constitution. Should the government fail to hand back former president Banda’s passport, Parliament must immediately take this matter up as a breach of our constitution. It is imperative that the Speaker of the National Assembly demand an explanation from the Minister of Home Affairs as to the legality of this action. Should Parliament fail to act, the courts will be able to intervene.
The office of the former president is a national institution that deserves dignity and respect. The current court cases against President Banda are not sufficient to grant power to remove the privileges accorded to his office as former president. The more we undermine this office through these types of actions, the more we undermine our goodwill and standing as a nation. The more we undermine our standing as a nation, the less investment we will see, which will translate into less employment for our abandoned youth who have long given up on the promises that were made to them during the last election.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)