16 March 2013 – Following the passage of a motion in Zambia’s National Assembly to remove the immunity of the former President Rupiah Banda, his international lawyer Robert Amsterdam describes the ruling party’s move as a “farce” that fails to pass the litmus test of legitimacy.
“We are disappointed but not surprised by today’s events,” said Amsterdam. “The ruling party’s witch hunt against the opposition began more than a year ago, including a defamation campaign against his son in which they failed to prove any wrongdoing. Now they want to start again with an attack against the internationally distinguished former president, with accusations based on light bulbs and lollipops.”
Banda’s international lawyer also questioned the manner in which the motion to remove immunity was passed:
“The Speaker allowed the motion to move forward despite repeated objections by half of the house, and proceeded to rush through the debate and vote despite a walkout by opposition MPs,” said Amsterdam. “Removal of presidential immunity is a serious measure, and one that should have broad multiparty support, or at least the dignity of a personal appearance by the head of state. Instead, the PF had to beg, borrow, and bribe by appointing opposition members as deputy ministers in order to just barely exceed 50% of the total seats.”
Amsterdam continued: “The removal of former President Banda’s immunity fails to pass the litmus test for legitimacy. Keeping in mind that this is the same government that only days ago fired live rounds into crowds of voters, the same people that have repeatedly arrested opposition leaders on bogus grounds, and the very same Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba, who himself defiantly refused to answer corruption questions before the authorities, there can be little doubt about where the PF stands on matters of justice.”
“Removal of Banda’s immunity is totally unrelated to justice. It is a crass political strategy aimed at removing potential competitors to the successor of an ailing, enfeebled president,” said Amsterdam.