By Elias Shilangwa
LUSAKA, March 15 (Xinhua) -- A division has arisen in the Zambian parliament following a move by the government to present a motion for the lifting of former president Rupiah Banda's immunity, with the opposition protesting the move, as it is before a court.
On Thursday, a High Court granted Banda's lawyers an injunction restraining Parliament from hearing the motion on the lifting of his immunity.
But Speaker of the National Assembly (parliament) Patrick Matibini decided to allow the motion to be tabled in parliament, a move that was openly resisted by opposition lawmakers.
Jack Mwiimbu, an opposition lawmaker, said the motion could not be tabled before parliament because it is a matter which is before the court.
"When a matter is in court, it can't be discussed in this House. Debating the motion will be subjudice. We are aware that court documents were served on the Clerk (of the National Assembly) on Thursday afternoon," he said.
But the speaker, in his ruling, said the House has got its own way of dealing with internal affairs, adding that rule of law, gives the House freedom to conduct its matters independently and allowed the minister to present the motion.
In his motion, the Zambian minister said "in terms of Article 43 (3) of the Constitution of Zambia, this House do resolve that Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda be amenable to criminal jurisdiction of any Court, in respect of any committed by him."
The Zambian minister told local media that investigative team constituted to probe Banda's alleged criminal activities has concluded its job and put together charges the former leader must answer without the veil of immunity.
The reading of the motion was greeted by murmuring from the opposition lawmakers who all stood up in protest as some were heard shouting 'We want rule of law'.
The government wants the former leader to face corruption allegations he is alleged to have committed during his three-year reign while his lawyers have labeled the accusations as a part of a political ploy to purge the opposition.
However, in a statement released on Thursday, Banda's lawyers stated that attempting to remove the former leader's immunity in the absence of any evidence, let alone any specific allegations of any wrongdoing, is wrong.
However for the motion to succeed, it will require two-thirds of the lawmakers to support it.
Banda ruled Zambia from August 2008 to September 2011 when he lost to current President Michael Sata who has embarked on a campaign to fight corruption.
This has seen a number of some of Banda's former officials and ministers being arrested and are currently appearing in court for various corruption charges.
This is the second time Parliament is taking the remove the immunity of a former president to pave way for prosecution on corruption allegations. Late former president Frederick Chiluba's immunity was lifted in July 2002 following allegations of plunder of national resources.