Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba was yesterday in the dock when the Tribunal established to investigate him for breach of the oath of secrecy and abuse of office commenced its sittings to lay ground rules at the Supreme Court.
Kabimba who has defied calls to resign from his ministerial position to avoid giving undue pressure and influence to the witnesses that would be testifying against him arrived at the Supreme Court grounds at about 14:00 hours without his official ministerial vehicle.
On hand to show solidarity was Sylvia Masebo, the Tourism and Arts Minister whose Tribunal has been halted by an injunction, Commerce Minister Emmanuel Chenda and Dorothy Kazunga, the deputy Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
The Tribunal investigating Kabimba has a lifespan of 45 days and is expected to sit every day including week-ends and holidays.
Chairman of the Tribunal Justice Evans Hamaundu sitting with High Court Justices Gertrude Chawatama and Justice Chashi said the Tribunal was commissioned by the Acting Chief Justice on the strength of the allegations and questions civil rights activist Brebner Changala and former Solwezi Central Member of Parliament (MP) Lucky Mulusa had set out in their letter to Justice Lombe Chibesakunda.
Judge Hamaundu said the allegations and questions against Kabimba constituted the terms of reference and that the Tribunal would not add any other term of reference.
He however explained that the Acting Chief Justice had the mandate to add other terms of reference under S14 (2) of the Ministerial and Parliamentary Code of Conduct Act to investigate further allegations.
In spelling out the procedure the Tribunal would take, Judge Hamaundu said the Ministerial and Parliamentary Code of Conduct Act did not specify the form which the investigations would take and it would therefore be guided by the provisions of the Inquiries Act.
Judge Hamaundu said the Tribunal would curtail any testimony or cross-examination which would venture outside the terms of reference.
Changala and Mulusa petitioned Acting Chief Justice Chibesakunda after the Supreme Court exposed Kabimba’s schemes in which he converted government legal opinion rendered to him as Justice Minister by Solicitor General Musa Mwenye to cause an impasse under which some MMD and UPND candidates were denied the opportunity to re-contest their seats.
Last week, Acting Chief Justice Chibesakunda established a Tribunal chaired by Judge Hamaundu to probe Kabimba and yesterday, the Tribunal had its first sitting at which ground rules were set.
And lawyers representing Kabimba through Bonaventure Mutale yesterday attempted to block the Tribunal from commencing its sittings on grounds that the letter by Changala and Mulusa and the allegations given therein were unjustified to cause the need to constitute a tribunal.
But Judge Hamaundu ruled that the relevance of the letter was inconsequential because the Acting Chief Justice had already established the Tribunal and would have to continue to inquire into the allegations against Kabimba.
After the tribunal was adjourned, Mulusa walked up to Kabimba and asked him when he was going to resign but the PF secretary general retorted: “Go and die alone. Why would you want to die with others” before turning to Masebo who was observing what was happening.Several stakeholders including members of the PF have called on Kabimba to resign from his ministerial position but the Justice Minister has said those who were calling for his resignation should either write to him (Kabimba) or President Michael Sata.
The tribunal has since been adjourned to Monday, Juanuary 20th 2014.