Tourism and Art Minister Sylvia Masebo should take leave or step down from her ministerial position until the Justice Rhoyda Kaoma Tribunal concludes its investigations against her alleged corruption and abuse of office, Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president James Banda has said.
Banda said Masebo’s resignation would remove any suspicion that the proceedings of the Tribunal would be interfered with because of the authority she had as Minister of Tourism and Arts.
“As much as the law does not prevent Masebo from continuing to work as cabinet minister, LAZ would expect that she would do the honourable thing by stepping down in the circumstances she finds herself in,” Banda said.
Banda said LAZ welcomed the setting up of the Tribunal to probe Masebo’s conduct in relation to the performance of her duties as cabinet minister when she unilaterally fired five Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) directors and dissolved its board.
He said LAZ was aware that the acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda had initially resisted the setting up of the Tribunal when she was petitioned by William Harrington, the former minister of transport and communications in the Chiluba administration.
Banda said it was heartening that the High Court delivered a reasoned Judgement essentially overruling the Acting Chief Justice and paving the way for the tribunal to be set up.
“We however commend the Acting Chief Justice for finally having complied with the law and did what was right,” Banda said.
He said a tribunal set up under the Parliamentary and Ministry Code of Conduct Act was an investigative proceeding to determine whether or not a sitting minister or deputy minister breached the code of conduct for ministers.
Banda said at the conclusion of the investigation or inquiry, the Tribunal would make its findings and appropriate recommendation would be made.
He said the Justice Kaoma Tribunal would present an opportunity for Masebo to defend herself against the allegations that she breached the ministerial code of conduct in the performance of her duties. Banda said LAZ wished to caution all members of the public that the setting up of the Tribunal in itself should not be interpreted to mean that Masebo was guilty of any misconduct adding she must be given the respect she deserved and treated as innocent until proved guilty.
“In the same vein we expect that the Tribunal would also be treated with respect and dignity to enable it perform its functions freely and fairly,” he said.