Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has summoned former president Rupiah Banda to appear before its investigators Thursday to testify about alleged corruption and crime.
In a letter to the former president, the ACC wrote, “the Government Joint Investigations Team has been carrying out investigations into allegations of corruption and other criminal activities in which you have been named… You are kindly requested to make yourself available at the Drug Enforcement Commission head office on Thursday at 09:00 hours [local time].”
The ACC also said it would take legal measures if Banda, president from 2008 to 2011, refused to appear before its officials.
But attorney Sakwiba Sikota, who leads Banda’s legal team, says it is currently illegal for the anti-graft body to issue such a summons because the former president enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution.
“What we have decided is that we are not going to participate in the illegalities of this government, and consequently, today, [Banda] is not going to go and appear at the ACC,” said Sikota.
“Once you have summoned him and you are asking him to account, you have started the process of prosecution and he is immune from prosecution,” he added.
Under the constitution, Zambia’s parliament is the only institution that can lift the immunity of a former head of state.
Legal analysts say the government would have to present a motion to parliament seeking to remove Banda’s immunity.
“At that stage then they would be free and at liberty to summon him and to commence the prosecution process,” said Sikota.
Supporters of the main opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) have rejected the summons as yet another attempt by the government to intimidate and harass MMD leaders such as Banda, to destabilize the party.
But some members of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) say the summons is part of the government’s campaign to eliminate corruption. They urged the former leader to appear before the ACC if he has nothing to hide. Sikota disagrees.
“You don’t embark on a fishing trip where you don’t even have clearly defined offenses that you say this person has committed,” Sikota said. “And then you just want to call them in and then you interrogate them endlessly in the hope of finding something.”
The chairman of the MMD, Nevers Mumba, says the party will fight the ACC summons.
“We shall fight using all constitutional avenues available to us, including impeachment, which now remains a strong alternative to stop this president from ruling by decree,” Mumba said.