LUSAKA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The Zambian Parliament has defended its decision to lift former President Rupiah Banda's immunity so that he could be prosecuted for his alleged involvement in corrupt activities during his three-year reign of the southern African nation, the Post of Zambia reported on Thursday.
On March 15, 2013, the parliament voted in favor of lifting Banda's immunity following the moving of a motion by the government in which it tabulated a list of allegations against him with 80 voting for the motion out of the total number of 158.
But Banda has contended the decision and asked the court to quash the move to lift his immunity, arguing that the decision by the National Assembly to proceed with the motion on a simple majority of 80 out of a total of 158 members of parliament was irregular and illegal, according to a notice for judicial review filed by his lawyers.
But the National Assembly has defended its removal of Banda's immunity, saying it was in accordance with constitutional provisions and procedures of the House and that there was no procedural impropriety, according to the Post.
In an affidavit in opposition to Banda's ex-parte summons for leave to apply for judicial review sworn by National Assembly deputy clerk for administration Cecilia Mbewe and filed in a Lusaka High Court, the Legislature has argued that there was no requirement for a former president to be heard before the removal of his or her immunity.
She said there was nothing irregular and illegal about removing Banda's immunity because the House debated and voted for the removal of the immunity after the Speaker made a ruling on objections raised by opposition lawmakers.
The court has since set April 12, 2013 as the date for ruling on the matter.
After the removal of his immunity, investigative agencies questioned Banda over his alleged involvement in corrupt activities and he has since been arrested over one charge of abuse of authority involving a Nigerian oil deal worth 2.5 million United States dollars, which he has denied.
He is expected to appear for more questioning regarding other charges on April 4, 2013.
Banda ruled Zambia from August 2008 to September 2011 when he handed over power peacefully after losing, and has been lauded as a true democrat.
His successor President Michael Sata embarked on an anti corruption crusade immediately after winning the elections and targeted leaders of the former regime whom he accused of looting public resources.
Since then a number of senior officials in Banda's administration such as ministers have been questioned while some have been arrested and are appearing in court. His first born son, Andrew, is also appearing in court after he was accused of soliciting for kickbacks from an Italian construction firm. His other son, Henry, is on the run and he is wanted by law enforcement agencies.
Banda becomes the second leader of this southern African nation to be arraigned before a court of law due to corruption allegations. Late former president Frederick Chiluba spent eight years appearing in court after his immunity was stripped after corruption allegations where leveled against him.