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Impeachment Motion In Zambia - 2003-08-13

Zambian parliamentarians have debated an impeachment motion against President Levy Mwanawasa. The opposition-sponsored motion makes over twenty allegations of abuse of office.

Opposition chief whip Crispin Sibeta is the mover of the motion to impeach President Levy Mwanawasa. He says, "That in terms of article 37 sub article 1 and 2 of the constitution of Zambia that this House do resolve that the President of the republic of Zambia Mr levy Patrick Mwanawasa be impeached for violation of the constitution and gross misconduct and that upon adoption of this motion by this House a tribunal be established under the same article to investigate allegations levelled against him."

According to the allegations, President Mwanawasa has embarked on a campaign to weaken the opposition by appointing members of the opposition to cabinet posts. The opposition members argue that by such an action, the President is reducing their influence and their criticism. They further argue that if left unchecked, such an action will adversely affect the spirit of multiparty politics upon which the Zambian constitution is founded.

Other allegations state that the Zambian leader has appointed his relatives to public office, that his wife uses public resources in her charity work and that he has retired competent young officers in the police service in preference for old retired ones. This was an apparent reference to the recent changes the president made in the police service. The president fired police chief Francis Musonda who was in his mid forties and replaced him with a man who had retired but had been brought back on contract.

Debating the motion, Opposition parliamentarian Bob Sichinga said the President was guilty of abuse of office by appointing members of the ruling party to public office when they already hold party positions. Mr. Sichinga cited the recent appointment of Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika, the ruling party spokesman to the position of Chairman of the Economic advisory council of Zambia.

He says, "Such an individual, qualified as he may be cannot sit in a position where he is non partisan. We have no problem with Mr Akashambatwa being appointed and do party work. You have said you want him to do that. But we are saying is that the public offices are not a monopoly of the ruling party. And we are saying the grounds on which you do things like is not to act in the best interest of the nation: yes they become good grounds for impeachment."

But legal affairs minister and artoney-general George Kunda dismissed the impeachment motion as nothing but mere politics intended to embarrass the President. Debating the motion, Mr. Kunda said the motion was made in bad faith.

He says, "Today Mr. Speaker Sir is a very sad day for Zambia because the opposition is setting a very bad precedence by moving a baseless, reckless, hopeless and malicious motion of our beloved president his excellence levy Patrick Mwanawasa, State counsel. Mr. Speaker Sir, the movers of this motion know very well that it has no chance of succeeding at all."

When President Mwanawasa went to parliament last year and asked the House to consider removing his predecessor’s immunity to facilitate investigations into allegations of abuse of office, his critics said he had set a bad precedent It’s hardly been a year since that happened. Now the same parliament is debating whether he should be impeached and investigated.