Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda responds to George Chellah
Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda has responded to President Michael Sata’s Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations George Chellah’s response to the article he wrote about the absence of the head of State from public view.
Below is the response in full
RESPONSE TO MR GEORGE CHELLAH, PRINCIPAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 30th August 2014]
Mr George Chellah’s response reported on lusakatimes.com is highly misleading. Here are my point by point comments:
a. Calling for a Medical Board: I did NOT call for a Medical Board. I understand this issue very well and know that the relevant provision in the article is discretionary. I am proud to say that I was the first citizen to discuss this issue in 2008 and published by The Post (around August or September), when the then MMD Government were afraid to respond to Mr Sata when he harangued Mr Mwanawasa over his health. My statement was followed by the Minister of Justice confirming what I had propounded and Mr Rupiah Banda was then confirmed to act as President. I wrote from South Africa because I was concerned for the alarming press statements about the matter. Mr Chellah was then at The Post and is or ought to know about that statement which they have removed from The Post archives. Why do we refuse to learn from history?
b. “Non- Issue”: It is naïve of State House to trivialise the health of the President and classify it as a non-issue. How can a non-issue be found in the Republican Constitution as Article 36 under the unambiguous side title “Removal of President on Grounds of Incapacity”? The provision is there to remove speculation and guess work whenever the issue of the President’s health becomes or seems apparent. Setting up a Board does not automatically mean the President would be removed from office. It is a transparent way of establishing the capacity of the Head of State to carry out the onerous task of looking after 14 million people, all the people, not just a few hundred PF cadres.
c. Full Discretion: there is no such thing as ‘full discretion’, which is another phrase for absolute discretion. Mr Chellah’s lawyers have misled him. There is a fetter attached to every discretion and this is why it is possible to “impeach” a miscreant public official, including ministers. Mr Chellah should advise his State House lawyers to revert to Professor de Smith, one of the fundis on this aspect of the law. A discretion can be impugned for being an abuse or being capricious or disguised as legal or proper motives; the Cabinet’s inaction smells. When a cobra stops spitting it ceases to be a spitting cobra; and thus you have prima facie evidence that there is something wrong with it as it has lost its trade mark of spitting. We want to know what has happened to our President. The Preamble of the Republican Constitution has resolved “to uphold the values of democracy, TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY and GOOD GOVERNANCE”. How do you hide the President and call that transparency and good governance?
d. Impeachment: Mr Chellah should go back to his advisor to tell them that I have said if they are lawyers then they know no law. To impeach does not only refer to Article 36. But with regard to the Cabinet I never discussed Article 36. I am in full control of my faculties and do not write recklessly. Your interpretation of “impeach” is narrow. To impeach includes these meanings: to lay an accusation against someone; to charge someone with a crime or misdemeanour; to charge a public official, in an appropriate tribunal, with misconduct in office; to question whether an act is valid or proper. Perhaps those in the Ivory Tower of State House think there is no process to use to move this matter forward. It is possible to craft an action that effectively fulfils the dictates of Article 36. For instance I would move for a Declaratory Judgement or even commence the novel idea of a Writ of Habeas Corpus to compel Mr Chellah or whoever is detaining our President to produce him! LAZ is conspicuously absent.
e. Contempt: I understand the law of contempt better than Mr Chellah’s advisors. Intimidation is the hall mark of the Patriotic Front; they do not debate without intimidating or threatening. But this reaction is hollow and has no leg to stand on. I did not say anything that can qualify to be contempt. Just because a case is in court cannot mean that we cannot discuss even principles of particular laws. In that case then professors and lecturers in education institutions must stop teaching. In order to succeed with a contempt charge against me Chellah or his lawyers must show that I discussed the specific case that is active in court and show that what I said tended to prejudice the outcome of the case or disparaged the Court itself, by criticising in a manner tending to bring into ridicule the administration of justice. It is not any or every comment that is contempt of court. This mad rush for contempts of court must be curbed.
f. Chairing Cabinet Meetings: Chairing Cabinet meetings in front of cameras is unprecedented since Cabinet deliberations are held in private and records classified as SECRET. But since the President introduced it himself let us see him chairing and debating in a full Cabinet session to end all speculations.
There is a background to the speculations that abound. President Sata went to Israel, ostensibly on a “holiday with a tourism health package”. Long before this Vice President Dr Guy Scott, with tongue in cheek, attacked the Daily Nation in the National Assembly, accusing the vibrant paper of lying that President Sata was in a hospital. Later the Indian media revealed that the President was hospitalised and named the hospital in India. Dr Scott breached parliamentary privilege but got away with it because no MP had the guts to bring up the charges. It is this lying that can lead to impeachment of the Cabinet, but not under Article 36. I believe there are astitute lawyers who can make a case of this unnecessary merry-go-round.
Ba Chellah, MULEBELENGA NOKUMFWA!
[30TH AUGUST 2014]