TIZ maintains that government’s tendency of pardoning convicted former ministers serving prison sentences on the context of being sick is a form of political manipulation and an obstruction of justice. TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) has condemned the continued release and pardoning of former ministers from Zambian prisons.
Speaking in an interview with the Lusaka Star, TIZ director Goodwill Lungu said TIZ had received with great dismay the release of former labour minister Austin Liato.
He said government’s tendency of pardoning convicted former ministers serving prison sentences on the context of being sick is a form of political manipulation and an obstruction of justice.
Mr. Lungu lamented that TIZ was deeply disappointed that the said former ministers continue to serve only a short period of time in prison.
“Former ministers are released on the so called medical grounds when there are so many prisoners with worse health conditions and have received a blind eye from the authorities,” he said.
Mr. Lungu said “this is not the right trend and it must be stopped immediately as it is detrimental to the fight against corruption and undermines the doctrine of separation of powers which is vital for the promotion of good governance.”
He said some of the pardons being made amount to abuse of authority adding that the executive must realise that it is demoting the foundation of fairness and good order in society.
“It is ending a message that criminality and corruption pay as long as one can render support to the ruling party. This is a dangerous path because criminals will undoubtedly take over the running of this country and will therefore hold the state captive,” Mr. Lungu added.
The director urged government and law enforcers to take great caution and put national issues first instead of selectively applying the law for their own political interests.
And speaking in a separate interview, Foundation for Democratic Process executive director, Macdonald Chipenzi has charged that the prerogative of mercy had been exposed to abuse of authority claiming it was therefore not serving its purpose.
Mr. Chipenzi hoped that the law be applied fairly and become more accountable to the people following the release of Austin Liato from prison.
He added that, “We have seen people who have forged certificates and have been pardoned not knowing whether those certificates are now being used to get employment out there all in the name of prerogative of mercy.”
The Supreme Court in June upheld the two-year jail sentence with hard labour on Mr. Liato by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for possession of K2.1 million reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The former Minister of Labour and Social Security Austin Liato was along with 21 other inmates discharged from prison on compassionate grounds due to ill health.
Minister of Home Affairs Davies Mwila ordered the release of Mr Liato and 21 other inmates in exercise of the powers vested in him under Section 31 (111A) of the amended Prison Act number 16 of 2004.