On the fifth day of hearings in Zambia’s trial against former President Rupiah Banda on abuse of office charges, the prosecution called to the stand its star witness Maj. (ret) Richard Kachingwe, who formerly served as a deputy high commissioner in the last government and national secretary in the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party.
Midway through Kachingwe’s testimony, Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito called for an early adjournment, prompting a disorderly response from the court galley. It appeared the proceedings hadn’t gone as Nchito planned, as Maj. Kachingwe testified before before Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda that former Minister of Energy Kenneth Konga had appointed him as envoy to Nigeria, and that former President Banda was not involved.
According to the witness, in 2008 he was approached by representatives of SARB Energy to do some oil business in Zambia when he served as Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria. Kachingwe says that he encouraged the company to come up with a proposal to open an oil marketing firm in Zambia to help facilitate energy trade between the two countries.
Kachingwe further told the court that in August 2008, SARB Energy came back to him with a proposal for Zambia which contained the government to government term Crude oil contract. According to Kachingwe SARB Energy explained to him that the president from the receiving country would write to the Nigerian counterpart requesting for the term crude oil, after which SARB would lobby for approval from the Nigerian government. “Once it is done SARB will pay finances to local company in Nigeria then lifting of the crude will start”, he said.
The prosecution of former President Banda has not been without controversy. A number of opposition leaders and civil society organizations have criticised the rushed removal of immunity and mounting of charges as politically motivated, while during an earlier court session the prosecution may have allegedly attempted to introduce a forged letter.
Maj. Kachingwe was kicked out of the MMD late last year when he attempted to nullify the party presidency of Nevers Mumba, leading his former allies in the opposition to brand him as a traitor to the ruling Patriotic Front party.
The matter has been adjourned until early July for the chief magistrate’s recess.