The Law Association of Zambia has advised President Edgar Lungu to consider relieving Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development, Ronald Chitotela of his duties.
The LAZ Council says it believes that the decision not to dismiss Mr. Chitotela’s does not support the fight against corruption, which the President has on numerous occasions publicly supported.
And the Association has insisted that Mr. Chitotela should resign from his ministerial position as it is not appropriate for him to continue serving as a Minister whilst facing criminal charges and appearing in court pending the determination of the matter.
LAZ also holds the view that prosecution of a sitting Minister in the courts of law cannot be effective.
The Anti-Corruption Commission on 5th February 2019 arrested and charged Mr. Chitotela, with two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to the laws of Zambia.
On 5th February, 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested and charged the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development, Honourable Ronald Chitotela, MP with two (2) counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to Section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act, Number 19 of 2010.
Following the arrest and charging of Hon. Chitotela, certain sections of society called for the dismissal of the Minister by the President. However, the President refused to dismiss the Minister and in aid of his decision cited Article 18 of the Republican Constitution, which presumes an accused person innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law.
And LAZ says it has followed the issue and surrounding debate with keen interest. In doing so, we have had occasion to peruse the Constitution of Zambia as amended by Act No. 2 of 2016, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia; the Anti-Corruption Act, 2012; the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act, Chapter 16 of the Laws of Zambia; and the Interpretation and General Provisions Act, Chapter 2 of the Laws of Zambia.
It noted that Given the framing of Article 116 of the Constitution, which, among other things, deals with the appointment of Ministers, we hold the view that the arrest and charging of a Minister for any criminal offence does not cause a vacancy in the office of Minister. A Minister serves at the President’s pleasure. Under any circumstances, it is only the President who can remove a Minister from office. However, the Constitution also gives any Minister the option to resign at any time.
“Our perusal of Section 18 of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of
Conduct Act also reveals that there is no provision which compels the President to dismiss a Minister on account of being arrested and facing”, it said.