News / Africa

Former Zambian President Faces Corruption Trial

Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda (file photo).
Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda (file photo).
Anita Powell
Zambia’s former president is set to face trial Wednesday for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from the nation while he was in office.  The trial is the latest development in the current president’s anti-corruption drive, and anti-graft officials say it is the most important symbolic step in that mission. 

Zambian President Michael Sata vowed to wipe out corruption when he ran for office and won the 2011 election in the copper-rich nation.

To that end, he has launched a slew of probes into business deals worth tens of millions of dollars. Sata, an economist who has described himself as being "allergic to corruption," even fired his top aide last year after an envelope containing a bribe, allegedly meant for the aide, accidentally landed on the president’s desk. 

But perhaps the most striking example of his mission is the upcoming trial of former president Rupiah Banda.  The National Assembly in March revoked Banda’s legal immunity from prosecution. He was arrested last week.

Banda is accused of stealing about $11 million through an oil contract with the Nigerian government and having that money routed to his son’s account.  He is also accused of using some of those funds for his failed re-election campaign.

The nation’s attorney general, Mumba Malila, says the prosecution has a good case.

"Our investigation has revealed that this was an oil deal with a Nigerian company in which he was involved and in which he didn’t perform quite to expectations as head of state," said Malila. "And so, we want to see if the court can make some guidance on it.  We think, as [head of] government, that he may very well have abused his office contrary to the provisions of the Anti-Corruption act."

Banda has denied all the charges, and his attorney has said the prosecution is politically motivated.

Goodwell Lungu, the director of Zambia’s branch of the anti-graft watchdog, Transparency International, says the upcoming trial sets an important precedent for Zambian officials.

Lungu wouldn’t discuss the merits of the case, but said he expects the court proceedings to be fair.

"This trial is a very important trial because it projects that in terms of the rule of law, no one is above the rule of law in our country and that even himself, [President] Sata, if he perhaps ends up misconducting himself, the same thing might be able to apply to him.  And we feel as Zambians that it’s only fair that our leaders are supposed to, at one time or another, be held to account for all their actions as well as their omissions that they could have undertaken while holding public office," said Lungu.

In a way, though, that precedent has already been set: Banda has avoided the dubious honor of being the first Zambian president to be tried for corruption.  That president was his predecessor, ex-president Frederick Chiluba, who was acquitted in 2009 on charges that he embezzled half a million dollars during his 11-year presidency.

Banda’s administration had refused to appeal his acquittal, earning the ire of his critics. 

The anti-corruption campaign has seen Zambia slightly improve its corruption score according to Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index.

But Lungu says the current administration is not above suspicion, either.

“We’d like Zambians to remain calm and let the due process of the law take its course," said Lungu. "And we’d also like to send a caution to the current PF regime in Zambia that the same law that is being able to be used to apply to the former head of state might end up catching up with them if at all their conduct might not be above our board.”

The Banda trial begins Wednesday.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs