Saturday, November 14, 2009

Task Force lawyers were paid $13m to prosecute Chiluba, claims Rupiah

Task Force lawyers were paid $13m to prosecute Chiluba, claims Rupiah
By Chibaula Silwamba and Christopher Miti in Chipata
Sat 14 Nov. 2009, 04:01 CAT

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda has claimed that the dissolved Task Force on Corruption lawyers were paid US $13 million to prosecute former president Frederick Chiluba over allegations that he stole US $500, 000 public funds.

And President Banda said once a person has become a Republican President, even just to call him a thief is punishment enough and for seven years Chiluba was called every name in the dictionary of insults. Meanwhile, President Banda said the government has no capacity to 100 per cent run Indeni Oil Refinery.

Featuring on Breeze FM's political hour programme on Wednesday, President Banda said attacks on his government over the acquittal of Chiluba were unfair.

“We have to decide as a people, as a country, as a government whether we want a judiciary or not. If we want a judiciary then we have to allow it to perform its functions,” he said.

“We try and say we want an independent judiciary, at the same time say that when they make decisions we find excuses as to why we don't agree with their decisions. If that happens then this country becomes chaotic. It is in countries that believe in that kind of thing where they want to interfere with the judiciary that end up in a lot of problems.

“The issue of president Chiluba is an old issue; you know that very well. I was here in Chipata with you when he was going to court. For seven years he has been accused of all manner of corruption. Nobody has ever stopped that. When I became President, I never ever stopped the judiciary. So the judiciary rules in the case that the man is innocent despite the fact that other people like The Post magazine, newspaper, everyday they said 'he was guilty, he was a thief, he was a criminal.' They said that. You know it yourself.”

He wondered why people were against the acquittal of Chiluba when no one demanded for appeal against their acquittals in the past.

“It's very nice when it's somebody else but one day it may happen to you. It will happen to you that somebody will dress you up with a slogan and people will say… It's not fair. This matter was in court. We should refrain from any comment on this matter until the judiciary pronounces itself. After the judiciary pronounces itself and said that he was innocent we accepted the decision. Now the argument is, 'why don't you go back to court and appeal against it?' Why didn't Mr Michael Sata ask us to go back to court and appeal against his theft of vehicle case when he was found innocent in court? The government didn't proceed to appeal against him. These are leaders. Once a person has become a President even just to call him a thief is punishment enough and for seven years Mr Chiluba was called every name you can think of in the dictionary of insults. So once that happened, as far as I am concerned, I decided and I didn't have a stomach for it.”

President Banda said a lot of money was spent on the Task Force on Corruption in comparison to the amount Chiluba was alleged to have stolen.

“I will give you another reason why we think it is unnecessary to go ahead and appeal; the Zambian Task Force against Corruption spent or let's say, better still, the leaders of the Task Force, the lawyers prosecuting Mr Chiluba received close to US $13 million in payment to prosecute this case. The case they had against him, they charged him for US $500,000. Only half a million dollars they said he had stolen but for that we have paid them over US $13 million; I don't have US $13 million to spend and prove to anyone that I am fighting corruption. You get my argument?

US $500,000 was what Mr Chiluba was accused of but people who prosecuted them received more than US $13 million,” President Banda said.

“Just imagine what we would have done with this US $13 million in terms of the things that we are discussing here; hospitals, schools, medicines in hospitals. So those who want to do so they are citizens and they are free; in this country anyone can take anyone to court. So go ahead and do it! But don't expect me to agree that now I must again spend US $13 million in order to satisfy certain quarters that I am fighting against corruption because I am fighting against corruption.”

President Banda said the anti corruption bill had just been passed in Parliament.

“And we think corruption can be fought even without the Task Force,” President Banda said. “We have the police force, we have the Anti Corruption Commission, we have the DEC Drug Enforcement Commission, we have many organs of our government who can perform this. So that is why our government felt that it was necessary for us to continue spending money following the acquittal. What if we spent another US $13 million and we found that the man is innocent, what will we say about us?”
President Banda argued that Chiluba's acquittal did not weaken the fight against corruption.

On statutory regulation of the media, President Banda said everyone was supporting self-regulation of the media.

“Our understanding is that everybody is for self-regulation. Our understanding as a government is that most newspapers, except one, are for self-regulation. They have said so but one or two have refused to come. Why are they refusing to regulate themselves?” President Banda asked. “I am for a free press; I will defend a free press. I saw in one of the papers where they said Sata says he is more handsome than myself. We have to ask my mother maZulu to tell us, to take a picture and ask her to choose between the two of us who she thinks is more ugly than the other. Those are petty things.”

On the government's enactment of the law to regulate non governmental organisations (NGOs), President Banda said the move was meant to ensure transparency and accountability of funds by NGOs.

“As you know we already passed that bill in Parliament. All we are saying is that in this democratic dispensation, everybody has to be transparent, everybody has to be answerable. We have got to know where are they getting the money from. How are they using this money?” President Banda said.

“You know very well that a few of them take this money and don't use it, they go to Europe and go and tell my friends in Scandinavia that 'we are going to fight this and do this' but when they come here they go and buy themselves big cars and houses. That is the kind of thing we want to fight.”

On the government's acquisition of 100 per cent ownership of Indeni Oil Refinery after acquiring 50 percent from French oil firm, Total, last month, President Banda said:

“No! No! In fact, you could see it yourself that the whole world the governments are shifting away from running these things. So we are very much aware of that. We are thinking about how best to manage our fuel requirement because fuel is like the blood in our system because when blood has escaped, you don't live anymore,” President Banda said.

“You realise that our economy, our factories, our power generators depend on fuel. So we are discussing how we can do it in such a way that fuel is not too expensive to the government and also for the people and that it is efficiently done. Also, there lies a problem, the people that are talking too much and were saying government is incompetent have vested interests in fuel supply.”

On whether the MMD will hold its convention before the 2011 tripartite elections, President Banda, who is acting president of MMD, said people would be informed when that would take place.

“If our constitution says so, of course, we will go but our constitution doesn't say we should do it now. We have a constitution, I even know roughly when we are obliged to hold a convention, but of course, for the Zambian people they should be interested of course. I understand the MMD is the ruling party, is the most important party in this country, so you can't stop people from debating the manner in which it is being run,” President Banda said. “My position on the convention and is that when the time comes we will tell the country which way we were going. It's not fair to bog us down in discussions about convention as if we promised the country that on such and such a date we are going to call for a convention.”

President Banda said the issues of the MMD convention were internal matters that did not concern non-members of the party.

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