Friday, August 21, 2009

Govt must appeal against Chiluba acquittal – WfC

Govt must appeal against Chiluba acquittal – WfC
Written by George Chellah, Maluba Jere and Mutuna Chanda
Friday, August 21, 2009 5:05:32 PM

CHILUBA’s acquittal is a slap in the face of poor Zambians, Women for Change (WfC) executive director Emily Sikazwe has said. And Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Reuben Lifuka has said former president Frederick Chiluba's acquittal is a mockery to the Zambian people.

Reacting to Monday's outcome of the eight-year case in which Chiluba was separately charged with former directors of Access Financial Services Limited (AFSL) Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe, Sikazwe described the former president's acquittal as a setback in the fight for social justice and the equal distribution of wealth in the country.

"Women for Change as an organisation expresses its disappointment over the outcome of the Chiluba case and as it is a slap in the face of the many poor Zambians whose property and money was plundered by him and his lieutenants," she said.

Sikazwe called on those celebrating this seeming victory to tone-down their celebrations.

"Allow the due process of the law to conclusively deal with the issue. We find it disturbing that Chiluba has been acquitted on a technicality but the fact remains that plunder of our country's resources took place during his term in office," Sikazwe said. "As an organisation, Women for Change demands that government must appeal against this acquittal on behalf of the millions of Zambians whose wealth was plundered and have been left poorer and more desperate in the poverty situation while others have died."

Sikazwe demanded that the appeal must be done urgently to save time and ensure that justice prevails.

"Women for Change stands with the people of Zambia in this regard to once again demand for government to quickly appeal on behalf of the many Zambians who have been robbed by this judgment," Sikazwe said. "And for us, the struggle against plunderers of our resources yesterday, today and tomorrow will continue."

And Lifuka said TIZ was disappointed with the whole judgment.

He said the verdict by Ndola High Court deputy registrar Jones Chinyama was confirmation that African leaders were not ready to be held accountable for their actions.

"They [leaders] will use everything in their possession including political patronage to avoid being held to account for their actions in office," Lifuka said. "It is our conviction that the weight of the evidence adduced does not correspond with the verdict of the court. It is a pity, if not a mockery to the Zambian people most of whom continue to wallow in abject poverty due to high levels of corruption, that Chiluba today walks out a free man."

He said it was a shame that although the court acknowledged several instances where Chiluba used a public account for his personal gain including what he termed the lavish spending on designer clothes and shoes, it still failed to arrive at an inevitable conclusion that Chiluba was guilty.

"It is such verdicts that embolden unscrupulous public servants to continue plundering national resources. Clearly, the turnout of events will make several whistleblowers with potential evidence of wrongdoing, to shy away and Zambia will continue to be weighed down under the stress of wanton public corruption," Lifuka said.

He said the verdict was a severe blow to several people and organisations in Zambia and the world over who closely followed the case and were convinced that enough evidence had been adduced against Chiluba.

"Our preliminary statement as Transparency International Zambia is that we are deeply disappointed with the outcomes of the case against former President Frederick Chiluba," Lifuka said.

He said Chiluba's acquittal on all six counts was a setback for the fight against corruption in Zambia and that it equally negated all that late president Levy Mwanawasa fought for.

"It should be recalled that president Mwanawasa went to Parliament with what he termed as prima facie case against Chiluba, leading to the lifting of the immunity of the former president," he said.

Lifuka said TIZ would issue a comprehensive statement later after studying the judgment and comparing a number of other judgments particularly that of Chiluba's wife Regina who was found guilty as well as the London High Court judgment among others.

And Chingola Patriotic Front (PF) member of parliament Dr Joseph Katema said it was clear that President Rupiah Banda was embracing everybody who smells of corruption.

Dr Katema said President Banda prepared ground for Zambians to accept the acquittal of Chiluba through his praises for the former head of state ahead of his judgment in his corruption trial.

"It is clear that he's [President Banda] a complete opposite of president Mwanawasa," Dr Katema said. "Every move he makes is contradicting the principles of president Mwanawasa... he brings back into his fold the people whom Mwanawasa had rejected; people like [Michael] Mabenga, Vernon Mwaanga. President Mwanawasa's government led the process of lifting Chiluba's immunity and prosecution but President Banda came and started saying 'he was a damn good president'. That was in preparation for people to accept the verdict. It is clear that he's embracing everybody who smells of corruption, proven or not proven."

He said examples abound of President Banda's liking for corruption.

"Everyone who smells of corruption is a darling of Rupiah Banda," he said. "We had the Dora Siliya saga and Rupiah Banda fought tooth and nail to ensure that Dora was back."

He said unlike late president Mwanawasa who bowed to public pressure in matters of national interest, President Banda did not listen to anyone.

"Late president Mwanawasa in the case of [Kashiwa] Bulaya heeded to the pressure of the people but Rupiah Banda no matter what the pressure, he listens to no one," he said.

However, Dr Katema said Zambians were watching President Banda's actions and would kick him and his government out in the 2011 elections.

On Monday, magistrate Chinyama acquitted Chiluba on all counts of embezzling public funds amounting to US $500,000 but convicted Chungu and Kabwe and sentenced them to five years imprisonment.

On the same day in Kabwe during the 28th general conference of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) at Mulungushi University, President Banda said nobody could deny that Chiluba did a lot of good things for the country.

President Banda said he had avoided commenting on Chiluba's cases before the judgment but that he had been criticised by many people, saying he was condoning whatever Chiluba did.

However, President Banda said everyone was presumed innocent before being proven guilty and that whatever verdict would come out, there was a human being involved.

He said today it could be Chiluba, tomorrow it could be him [President Banda] or any other Zambian.

On Tuesday at State House during a swearing in ceremony, President Banda thanked and congratulated Zambians for accepting the acquittal of Chiluba on corruption charges.

He said: "I want to thank the Zambian people, your honour the Zambian people today, for having accepted the decision of the Judiciary. I congratulate them because all of us were anxious; we wanted to know what will happen to one of our former presidents. The Zambian people really have to be congratulated for respecting the Judiciary, for respecting this noble institution."

Recently in Mansa on Radio Yangeni, President Banda said he would not treat Chiluba as a leper even if he were convicted for corruption by the courts of law because he did a lot for the country.

President Banda said he had a lot of respect for Chiluba who he described as having been "a damn good president."

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