/ 13 April 2012

Former first son ‘cannot go home’

The son of former Zambian president Rupiah Banda this week told the Mail & Guardian that he could not return to Zambia because there was “reliable inside information that he is a marked man”.

Henry Banda is wanted by the Zambian authorities in connection with his alleged involvement in corrupt government deals when his father was president.

The Zambian police told the M&G that they had not made public the charges against Banda because he had not appeared before them.

Breaking his silence on the allegations against him this week, Banda confirmed that he was living in South Africa and said it would be unwise to return to Zambia because of the refusal of the Zambian authorities to identify the supposed charges against him.

He said he had held permanent residence status for many years by virtue of being married to a South African citizen.

Banda said his legal representatives had contacted both the Zambian and the South African authorities to establish the facts about his case.

However, the Zambian authorities had ignored his legal representatives’ requests for information, which supported the view that the charges were fabricated.

He said he had “legitimate doubts” about whether he could receive fair treatment from the Zambian authorities.

Moses Chikane, the South African high commissioner to Zambia, told the Zambian media that South Africa could not hand over anyone to a ­foreign government in the absence of charges.

“We need solid charges before any extradition can take place. In this case, all we have heard is that the gentleman [Banda] is wanted for questioning,” said Chikane.

He said the Zambian authorities should use Interpol to secure lawbreakers.

Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Given Lubinda said he would write to the South African government to request Banda’s extradition because efforts to use Interpol had not yielded any result.

Interpol confirmed that, at Zambia’s request, it had issued a red notice for Banda.

These notices are used to inform Interpol’s 190 member countries, including South Africa, that a judicial authority has issued an arrest warrant for an individual and people should contact the police if they have relevant information.

They do not amount to an arrest warrant.

Banda’s lawyers have labelled the allegations as “bogus accusations” that are “part of a wider campaign to persecute the former president, his party and the political opposition at large”.

“The government of Zambia is using the false pretext of ‘anti-corruption’ to eliminate political competition.” said lawyer Robert Amsterdam in a statement.

“In the absence of any real evidence against Henry Banda, we can see that the government is making arrests and attempting to pressure individuals to produce false evidence.”

The M&G’s disclosure that Banda was living in South Africa caused ripples in Zambia.

The country’s The Post newspaper this week quoted Home Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni as saying that Banda’s decision to hire high-profile, expensive lawyers indicated how much money he had accumulated when his father was president.

The legal firms appointed by Rupiah and Henry Banda last month to represent them, international firm Amsterdam & Peroff and Johannesburg-based Brian Kahn Attorneys, are preparing emergency appeals to international bodies to halt the “unlawful conduct” of the Zambian government.

Reacting to Rupiah Banda’s recent assertion in the M&G that “the rule of law has given way to the rule of politics” in Zambia, Lubinda hotly denied that investigations against Banda were politically influenced.

“Issues to do with impropriety were raised when his father was still serving as president,” Lubinda said.

“All types of tenders were being conducted at State House. People will remember that, as the [former] opposition MP, I did raise questions on oil deals that were being cut at State House.”

The minister accused Henry Banda of turning State House into the Zambia “public procurement authority” during his father’s presidency.

Rupiah Banda told the M&G of his distress over the Interpol red notice, saying that his son was on a “political hit list” that was “part of a plan to destroy the future of the MMD [the Movement for Multiparty Democracy],” Zambia’s former ruling party.

Henry Banda was widely accused in the Zambian Parliament and media in 2009 of brokering an allegedly corrupt deal in which a Kenyan oil trading company, Dalbit Petroleum, clinched a multimillion-dollar contract to supply finished petroleum products to Zambia.

It was alleged that Kenyan businessmen who attended the tender opening ceremony in Lusaka were given aides and escorted in a convoy of government Mercedes-Benzes to State House after the ceremony.

On August 2 2009 Zambia’s former finance minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, allowed the energy ministry to import diesel duty-free.

However, because the ministry did not have the capacity to do this, it contracted — without following tender procedures — Dalbit Petroleum of Kenya and Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait to import the commodity at zero-percent duty.

Banda was accused of acting as the Kenyan firm’s agent.

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