Attorneys for former Zambian President Rupiah Banda plan to meet with him Friday to discuss reports the government had revoked his diplomatic passport.
One of his attorneys Sakwiba Sikota says President Michael Sata’s apparent decision to cancel Banda’s passport is illegal and an affront to democracy.
“If the report in the media is correct then certainly, they are in breach of Zambian law,” said Sikota.
His comments followed reports in the media that the government has canceled the former president’s passport. Some Zambians attributed the reported decision to an ongoing graft investigation against the former leader by the Joint Government Investigation Team.
But citing the constitution, Sikota said, the former president has not been convicted of any crime.
“They have it wrong,” said Sikota. “The passport that Banda has, he has because of a specific act of parliament, which is the former presidents Benefits Act, which sets out what former presidents are entitled to. One of the things the former president is entitled to is a diplomatic passport for himself and for his spouse.”
A section of the Benefits Act stipulates that “a former president shall be disqualified from the benefits conferred by this act, if he has ceased to hold office on the grounds of willful violation of the constitution, or from his conduct, or if he is convicted of an offense and sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding six months.”
“None of those apply,” said Sikota. “So you cannot take away those accrued rights, because the law states under what circumstances that can be done. So those people saying the government can take that away obviously don’t know what the law is.”
Sikota says both Banda’s office and his attorneys have yet to receive an official notification from the government.
“We have been trying to get an official letter, but all we have seen are reports in the all the state-run media, and also in the media, which is pro-government. So, it would appear that there is such a letter,” said Sikota.
Immigration officials recently prevented the former president from boarding a plane to neighboring South Africa. Officials feared his trip would have compromised the ongoing criminal investigation against him.
Parliament has lifted Banda’s immunity from criminal prosecution, a move that opened the way for the government to prosecute him on charges of financial malfeasance between 2008 and 2011.
The administration contends that the former president and his family benefited financially from corrupt practices while Mr. Banda was in office, charges the former president denies.