By Dickson Jere
Unlike the lifting of Immunity of former President Frederick Chiluba (2002) and Rupiah Banda (2013) which was done with ease in Parliament, the law has now changed since 2016. See Article 98 of the Constitution.
In Chiluba and Banda cases, a wide range of unsubstantiated allegations were made in Parliament, which prompted MPs to lift Presidential immunity without verification of the allegations. And it was by mere simple majority vote by Parliament! But now the law has changed. The following pointers must now be followed for lifting Immunity:
1. It is the sitting President himself who should go to Parliament and present a Report detailing the specific allegations against former President. (Rupiah Banda was done by Minister of Justice).
2. The allegations must be specific and Parliament is obliged to set-up a special Committee to probe the allegations before tabling them in the House unlike in the Chiluba and Banda case.
3. The former President, unlike previous, is allowed to challenge and be heard at Parliament before lifting of immunity. So, if the allegations are fake, the Committee will inform Parliament and the whole process fails! Lawyers get involved at this stage like in the US during congressional hearing of impeachment of the President.
4. If the Committee finds that the allegations are valid, Parliament will still has to vote for lifting of immunity and the motion requires two-thirds majority unlike in Chiluba and Banda cases where you just needed simple majority.
5. Once immunity is lifted, the former President ought to charged with those specific charges or alleged offences that Parliament approved and nothing else. In both Chiluba and Banda cases, they were charged with other unrelated offences not presented to Parliament.
6. If acquitted by the Courts, immunity is given back automatically by operation of law unlike in the Chiluba and Banda cases.
The effect of the above entails that the former President must be investigated first and prima facie case found against him before contemplating to lift immunity. There is no law that stops law enforcement agencies from investigating former President but prosecution. The process has now been lengthened following the unsuccessful prosecution of Chiluba and Banda. No ordinary MP or Minister can move Parliament to remove immunity unlike in the past. It must be President.