Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Patriotic Front Must Also Indict Itself

“Those who think Kabimba is right to prosecute Banda should ask oneself how they would feel, as individuals, to stand in the former president’s shoes and stare in the face of jail based on punishment that will be inflicted, not by a general rule, but arbitrariness of the Patriotic Front finding itself to be in government and having influence over the justice system”

By Nyalubinge Ngwende
Zambian Former President Rupiah Banda
The Zambian Parliament on Friday, March 15, 2013 lifted immunity for its former President Rupiah Banda for alleged corruption. Banda, who lost power to the Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata in September 2011, had his immunity stripped off by an 80 to 3 parliamentary vote so that he could be amenable to criminal prosecution. He becomes the second Zambian former president under the MMD government, after Fredrick Chiluba, to lose presidential immunity over corruption charges. 

Banda faces allegations of corrupt acts related to the funds he used to run, what the country’s ruling party PF considers the most expensive presidential election campaign in the country’s history. He also faces a Nija-Oil-Gate Scandal in which government paid US$2.5 million for 44,000 barrels of fuel to be supplied on a daily basis, but the proceeds of fuel sales allegedly went to Singapore in a Barclays Bank account belonging to his son, Henry. Another charge relates to a loan procured from a foreign company for a real estate trust, Mpundu Trust, by first lady Thandiwe Banda.  

Zambia Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba
According to Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba who read the motion to parliament to evoke Article 43 (3) of the constitution, which allows parliament to lift the immunity of a former president in the light of any wrong doing that borders on commission of criminal acts during the tenure of office, Banda faces corruption charges involving a staggering amount of K21 billion (unrebased).

And today Tuesday, March 19, Banda appears for the second time in two days before GJIT (a government joint investigative team) to be interrogated on the various charges that Kabimba and PF MPs believe border on money laundering and can be prosecuted under Zambian anti-graft laws. Banda’s supporters and lawyers, including international human rights barrister Robert Amsterdam, believe the former president is being persecuted however. 

First it must be stated here that to seek punishment for a ‘man because he has a crime, or because he is believed, though unjustly, to have committed a crime is not persecution. Persecution comes in if those trying to arraign Banda to the courts infer from the beliefs that his political party MMD was tainted with corruption and therefore he could have committed similar crimes’.

Second, the Patriotic Front must also indict itself for the similar campaign crimes that they have smeared Banda. It is not speculation, during general elections that Sata received funds from various friends which today he cannot explain. It is brutal and shaming truth that the ruling government has not just taken public resources (vehicles and fuel), albeit little, and continued to receive funds from undisclosed sources to facilitate its by-election campaigns. 

Government vehicles are being stripped of GRZ number plates and fixed with illegal private numbers while permanent secretaries are instructed to procure fuel for party officials to go into campaigns. It is even immoral that ministers like Nkandu Luo could start using the name of the poor people to justify the removal of immunity when she forgets that she does not use fuel and money from the Patriotic Front account to campaign in parliamentary and local government by-elections being unwisely created by Sata.

It was even embarrassing to see a ZNBC TV journalist Grevasio on Sunday Interview asking MMD vice president for administration, Brian Chituwo, how a party could get a lot of money for campaign, in what he called overnight, when the country is poor. Grevasio, you are strangely naive if not a PF hired gun on this particular question. Business interests fund political parties based on the policies that favour their operations. That does not require subjecting a political leader to the process of the law to inquire why a certain company became a charity to a particular party, as Given Lubinda tried to suggest in a futile effort to please the PF leadership that has already disowned him.  

Today we can’t even tell if it is not possible that the people who helped finance the Patriotic Front campaign to Sate House are not picking up public contracts like confetti at a wedding. What we know is that for those who provided morale boost through publicity using their vuvuzelas are rewarded, together with their business partners, and forgiven sins that border on defrauding the Zambian public. 

How would one explain the action of President Sata’s suspension of a judge who passed judgment asking the Post Newspaper editor-in-chief Fred M’membe and Mutembo Nchito to repay the K14 billion loan they procured from DBZ (Development Bank of Zambia) in the name of an airline, Zambian Airways, that had its wings clipped? Nchito is even rewarded with the job of DPP.

Billionaire and PF benefactor: Rajan Mathani,
There was also a case under the Bank of Zambia against Rajan Mathani over his use of bank money, belonging to customers’ deposits. This led the central bank to place the bank under care of new management. President Sata discontinued all money laundering related cases against Mhatani and repossessed Finance Bank, giving it back to Mathani. There was a strong belief by the former regime under Banda that Mathani bankrolled PF campaigns.

If Banda goes to court on charges of inducement or gratification through campaign money, then Kabimba must tell us why PF must not indict itself, too.

On the loan acquired by Mpundu Trust, it is foolish and wicked for Kabimba to include it on the shopping list he took to parliament to indict President Banda as a basis of stripping his immunity. With the high standing of a president who has a salary, will continue getting his terminal benefits and still have wider sources of earnings from other global statesman engagement, it is folly to question how his wife could afford to get a loan on her own terms for real estate development. The status of a presidency is collateral that even gets you free donations! And that is no crime, unless one uses public funds to pay back personal loans. 

On what I will call a Nija-Oil-Gate Scandal, it is one indictable case but the truth in the long-run of the court process will show us where Banda’s wrong doing lies. If the teaching that a ‘father shall not pay for the sins of the son’, unless he is an accomplice, applies to the customs of Zambia’s justice system then the public will watch this one charge with keen interest.

With nothing more to the corruption shopping list, apart from the jealousy of a huge campaign that Wynter Kabimba took to show in parliament, Banda must be let loose. This is because it becomes pernicious for the PF government to prosecute Banda on arbitrary legal justification that cannot apply to Sata and his MPs, who know that they are yet to tell Zambians the source of their own campaign money over 10 years in the opposition. 

Those who think Kabimba is right to prosecute Banda should ask themselves how they would feel, as individuals, to stand in the former president’s shoes and stare in the face of jail based on punishment that will be inflicted, not by a general rule, but arbitrariness of the Patriotic Front finding itself to be in government and having influence over the justice system.

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