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Zambia Opposition Displeased with Ex-President Banda’s ‘Persecution’

  • Peter Clottey

Zambia's former president, Rupiah Banda, is seen in a March 8, 2011, file photo.

Zambia's former president, Rupiah Banda, is seen in a March 8, 2011, file photo.

Former President Rupiah Banda of Zambia is scheduled to appear before officials of the Joint Investigative Team (GJIT) on Thursday as part of the government’s inquiry into allegations of graft against the former leader.

The investigative team includes security officials from the police, Anti-Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Task Force on Corruption.

Namukolo Kasumpa, GJIT spokesperson says the former president will be investigated thoroughly and fairly.

"He was summoned for continuous questioning over a lot of issues," Kasumpa said. "At this point, we wouldn’t be in a position to say how long the investigation is going to take or how long the interview is going to [last]."

But Nevers Mumba, leader of the main opposition political party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), says Mr. Banda faces trumped up charges that are politically motivated.

"Our position is that the former president is being politically harassed and also that the allegations against him are totally unfounded even when you look at them at face value," said Mumba.

"But going beyond that," Mumba continued, "our party finds it difficult to accept that this is their so-called fight against corruption."

Mumba says supporters of the MMD will accompany the former president to the premises of the GJIT.

He says senior officials of the ruling Patriotic Party (PF) are displeased with what he called the prominent role Banda has been playing in the international community since his defeat in the last presidential vote.

"From the moment we democratically handed over power to the Patriotic Front, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy has been subjected to some of the most incredible mistreatment by the ruling party - basically, with the hope that they could destabilize or scatter the party," he said.

Mumba says the party will remain strong in the face of what he says are government attempt to stifle dissent. The government rejects the accusations.

Banda has often led the U.S.-based Carter Center’s poll observer missions to monitor elections in some African countries. He recently led the Carter Center’s election team monitoring Kenya’s March 4 general elections.

"This is just to get at him and humiliate him and be able to get the passport from him, because he has been representing this country in many fora including monitoring elections on behalf of the Carter foundation and many such noble tasks, and I think this government is not happy about the role that the former president has been given around the world," said Mumba.

Parliament has lifted Banda’s immunity from criminal prosecution, opening the way for the government to prosecute him on charges of financial malfeasance from 2008 to 2011.

The government contends that the former president and his family benefited financially from corrupt practices while Banda was in office, charges the former president denies.

"We are now going into the region to also brief other presidents and heads of state in the region on the inhumane treatment that is being given to the opposition parties, including president Rupiah Banda," said Mumba.