Attorneys for former Zambian President Rupiah Banda plan to ask the High Court Tuesday to release his passport so he can travel to a conference in South Africa.
“Today, hopefully, we get a hearing before a judge and hopefully the judge will be able to make a decision on the same day due to the urgency of the matter,” said attorney Sakwiba Sikota.
A lower court referred the case to the High Court Monday after the government argued that it did not have jurisdiction over Banda’s petition.
Banda’s passport was confiscated by the government’s Joint Investigations Team, which recently charged him with graft. Some officials of the administration are against the release of the passport after saying the former leader is a flight risk.
Sikota says he is hopeful the High Court will grant Banda’s passport request so he can take part in the 2013 African Presidential Roundtable. The conference is scheduled to begin Wednesday in neighboring South Africa.
“We are going to petition the High Court for them to facilitate for the travel of our client,” said Sikota. “We have also prepared a certificate of urgency, which should then be considered, so that the matter can be heard expeditiously, and we are hoping that it could be heard today. And that the ruling can be made one way or another on the matter because the issues are not that complex in terms of argument.”
Banda is scheduled to make a presentation at the conference about the role western countries can play to help strengthen electoral processes in Africa, as well as the contribution Africa’s current leaders can make to ensure the continent’s stability and democracy.
Sikota disagreed with the notion that the former president would be a flight risk if granted his passport. He says Banda has faith in the judicial system in spite of the government’s suspicions.
Sikota says the administration has yet to present its concern about Banda’s travel arrangements.
“They didn’t put in an affidavit in opposition to our application this morning. So we don’t know what the real reasons are,” Sikota said. “What we do know is what has been said outside the courtroom by the various political leaders. So we are waiting if they are going to bring that up [today] for us to be able to counter that.”
All former heads of state and government in Africa have been invited to participate in the presidential roundtable under the theme, “The Cost of Democracy.”
Meanwhile, Banda’s deputy administrative assistant, Kennedy Limwanya, says the U.S-based Boston University African Presidential Centre has sent two return air tickets to enable the former president to travel to South Africa for the conference.