Lawyers have urged Chief Justice Luke Malaba to remove the presidential immunity clause from the country’s statutes to ensure that a sitting President is not insulated from criminal proceedings.
By Tatenda Chitagu
The call was made when Malaba was giving a public lecture at Great Zimbabwe University last Friday when lawyers called for the amendment of section 98 of the Constitution which insulates a sitting President from civil or criminal trials.
But Malaba said the section cannot be scrapped off without a referendum as the supreme law of the land was a product of the people. He said the best Zimbabweans can do about the clause is “to debate about it”.
“The question of immunity, I do not want to interpret it. It is a constitutional question, I hope you understand what I mean. It (the clause) cannot go beyond something, it cannot be taken away when it’s legislated by the Constitution itself,” Malaba said.
“We must accept that the people of Zimbabwe who are the midwives of the Constitution, decided that. They then decided we will have this situation for us as Zimbabweans. Whether it applies in South Africa or somewhere else, they are not interested.”
He added: “So who am I, being under the Constitution and not being above the law, who am I to say no, this is wrong? I cannot. It is an important question, but I think it is a philosophical question. I think the best we can do is to debate it until there is an amendment.”
Section 98 reads: “(i) While in public office, the President is not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in any court for things done or omitted to be done in his personal capacity. (ii) Civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against a former President for things done or omitted to be done before he or she became President or while he or she was President.”