Press Statement on the Post Newspaper’s Publication of the Taped Conversation by Honourable Alexander Chikwanda.

Following the publication by the Post Newspaper of the recording of the conversation between the Honourable Minister of Finance Mr Alexander Chikwanda and an unknown person, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has been inundated with queries by the public and the press to comment on the legal implications of the Post exposing a private conversation of a public citizen, and whether such exposure amounts to malicious invasion of privacy.

The press queries have extended to seeking the views of LAZ on the following, namely:

  • whether the recording was in breach of the laws of Zambia and the implications of such breach.
  • what the reported indication that Honourable Chikwanda directed the Zambia Revenue Authority to pounce on the Post means for the country’s tax collection system;
  • whether, following the hint that President Michael Sata is sick, the nation should take steps to prevent a calamity that befell the nation when late President Levy Mwanawasa died; and,
  • what LAZ would advise the Patriotic Front to do to avert a looming internal leadership succession wrangles following Honourable Chikwanda’s hint that President Sata may not go for another term of Office.

LAZ has taken time to consider these queries and now wishes to advise the Press and the Public as follows:

  1. Protection for privacy home

The Under our Republican Constitutional all individuals are entitled to the privacy in their homes. If indeed the recording is genuine and was made without the consent of the parties involved it is a violation of that constitutional right.

2. Honourable Minister direction to ZRA

It is difficult for LAZ to answer this question since the issue it concerns is the subject matter before the courts and is subsequently sub judice.

To the extent that a comment on the same is possible however, the legal position is that citizens, residents and companies operating in the Country, who have the legal duty to pay tax, must ensure strict compliance with this duty. At the same, tax laws, and regulations made thereunder, contain provisions to which tax payers who have fallen into difficulties in securing compliance can have recourse to and have arrangements made with the Zambia Revenue Authority [ZRA] to have such obligations discharged within a specified time agreed with ZRA.

In specific reference to the issue, to which the press queries refer, all laws of the land, of which tax law is an instance, are premised on the principle that they shall apply uniformly to all subjects of the law without discrimination, and that the legal authorities charged with the task of administering law shall act independently at all times. Consequently, the suggestion that the Honourable Minister directed ZRA to pounce on the Post Newspaper to collect the outstanding tax raises the suspicion that ZRA does not apply the tax code uniformly and independently. This in turn can have serious negative impacts on the revenue collection by ZRA from the Tax payers.

3. The Health of the Head of State

Like all stakeholders in the governance of this Nation, including LAZ, have commented before, sickness on the part of an incumbent President is not a matter that should be shrouded in secrecy and controversy.

The Republican Constitution contains explicit provisions that cover all eventualities that may cause the President to vacate office by reason of either his physical or mental incapacity. The Constitution also authorizes the President to delegate his Presidential powers to the Vice-President in the instances where the President is unable to perform his functions by reason of illness or any other cause.

LAZ wishes to take this opportunity to advise all Zambians that the public debate on the health of the Head of State must be undertaken in an atmosphere of sobriety, objectivity and genuine concern. It does not help for those who are in Government, and who advise the President, to conceal the real circumstances surrounding the health of the Head of State. Similarly, those who offer to advise on the health of the President, or even to suggest possible solutions to the resulting problems from the outside, must do so without any intention to make a spectacle of this important matter in the public realm.

4. LAZ advice on PF succession wrangles

This is really a matter of internal politics of the PF and ultimately, the party has to determine its own fate.

However, as the party which is currently in Government, the PF should ensure that any internal difficulties it is facing do not impact on the ordinary citizens of this country. Whatever method PF will employ to address and redress its internal wrangles, it is incumbent on the party leadership to ensure that the interests of the Nation as a whole prevail over any internal strife that the party may be undergoing. This is in keeping with the mandate that the people of Zambia gave the PF in the last tripartite elections.

K M G Chisanga

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