Last Updated
Thursday 27 November 2014, 14:40 pm.
'Chiluba-targeted' task force disbanded

NDOLA: The Task Force on Corruption has been disbanded, heralding the end of what some described as an institution specifically created to persecute Zambia's second president, Frederick Chiluba.
By Staff Writer Sat 29 Nov 2014, 03:06 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: 'Chiluba-targeted' task force disbanded








Vice-president George Kunda has announced the dissolution of the Task Force on Corruption, which has been fused into the Anti-Corruption Commission, an institution established by an Act of Parliament.

The task force was initiated by the late president Levy Mwanawasa who felt that there was rampant corruption during the reign of his predecessor, Chiluba.

In fact, Mwanawasa resigned as Chiluba's vice-president in July 1994, citing corruption among some senior members in the cabinet whom he said should have been prosecuted.

The Task Force on Corruption comprised prosecutors from the Zambia Police Service, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Drug Enforcement Commission, all of which have been created by Acts of Parliament. But those who opposed its existence said that it was illegal because it was not established through an Act of Parliament.

At the end of his second term, former president Chiluba wanted to run for a third term in office, but his move was thwarted by senior members of his Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), the civil society and ordinary Zambians.

Some of the senior members of Chiluba's cabinet, including the vice-president, the late Lieutenant General Christon Tembo, were expelled from MMD for opposing Chiluba's third term bid.

But after his bid was thwarted, Chiluba handpicked Mwanawasa, who was an ordinary member of the party, for the MMD presidency.

But in a bizarre turn of events later, Mwanawasa surprised the nation when he addressed the National Assembly alleging that Chiluba's government was characterised by corruption including diversion of funds from the Zamtrop account that was held at the ZANACO branch in London.

Six months after Chiluba left office, in July 2002, the National Assembly removed his immunity against prosecution, after Mwanawasa addressed the House.

After his immunity was dropped, Chiluba was dragged to court by the task force. Later his wife, Regina, was also charged with having received goods believed to have been stolen from the state.

She was prosecuted by the task force before the Ndola magistrate's court for receiving goods believed to have been stolen by Chiluba, including a king size Toshiba, that prosecutors claimed belonged to State House.

But before the court made a ruling whether the prosecution had established its case against her, the state entered a nolle prosequi and the case was transferred to Lusaka, where the former first lady was slapped with fresh charges.

At the time the task force was created, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was the late Mukelabai Mukelabai, who continued his position from the appointment that was made by Chiluba.

But as the cases involving Chiluba were being heard in court, Mukelabai was accused of having met some people who were close to Chiluba in Livingstone, which led President Mwanawasa to appoint a tribunal to probe the movements of the DPP.

Since Mukelabai was seen to be compromised, Mwanawasa brought in private lawyer, Mutembo Nchito into the task force to prosecute some of the high profile cases on behalf of the state.

But the move was condemned by some Zambians who said that the state was spending too much money and the task should have been left to other government lawyers who were already on the payroll.

Some analysts say that the late Mwanawasa formed the task force in order to put pressure on Chiluba so that he could relinquish the party presidency to him.

To many, the weakness of the Task Force on Corruption was that it concentrated too much on Chiluba and his henchmen.  It also caused problems regarding international relations, as one of the suspects was Moses Katumbi, the governor of Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

After indications by the task force that Katumbi would be arrested if he travelled to Zambia, he closed the border with Katanga at Kasumbalesa, constraining shipment of copper concentrates to Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.

Mwanawasa sent then Information Minister, Vernon Mwaanga, to solve the problem with President Joseph Kabila. During the trip Mwaanga told the local press in Kinshasa that the Zambian government owed Katumbi US $7 million.

Mwanawasa fired Mwaanga upon his return to Lusaka, but the dust settled after Katumbi forfeited some property to the Zambian government.

Some have said that because the Task Force on Corruption concentrated on cases involving Chiluba, corruption started thriving among low ranking civil servants during the Rupiah Banda administration.

The police have exposed a scandal in which civil servants working for the Ministry of Health have been charged with the theft of K4 billion.

Before Chiluba was acquitted of cases of corruption, the task force secured a conviction against his wife for having received goods believed to have belonged to State House, including a king-size Toshiba television set.

Legal brains say that there was need to convict Chiluba of theft and then proceed to prosecute his wife.

If Chiluba had not been acquitted of theft by public servant involving US $500 million, then his wife's conviction did not make sense.

Besides, the London High Court found Chiluba guilty of having embezzled public funds and he was ordered to repay Zambia more than US $40 million. Legal experts on this say that there was first need to find Chiluba guilty in a criminal court before the civil case of restitution was reached by a foreign court.

This could be one of the reasons the High Court of Zambia has not yet registered the London High Court judgement in which Chiluba was ordered to repay Zambia more than US $40 million.

According to Zambian law, the judgement of the foreign court has to be registered in order for it to be in force in Zambia.

After the task force failed to secure a conviction against Chiluba, in  August its chairman Max Nkole filed a notice of appeal to the High Court, citing seven grounds of appeal.

But after Nkole overruled the DPP regarding the appeal, government announced that Nkole's contract had long expired.

The Chiluba camp said the appeal could only be heard before the High Court if it had been sanctioned by the DPP.

The DPP can discontinue a case before the court at any stage whether during mention, hearing of the prosecution witnesses, plea, defence or shortly before judgement. (Sila Press Agency)



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