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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid