According to a source close to the administration, President Michael Sata has told Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito to discontinue the two remaining corruption cases against Former President Rupiah Banda for lack of evidence.
If the DPP were to follow through and withdraw the cases, it would mark the dramatic end of two-year saga of political intrigue between the former head of state and the new government.
The conversation allegedly occurred during a meeting last Monday at State House, where Post Newspaper owner Fred M’membe and DPP Nchito had approached President Sata, complaining of his recent public familiarity with former President Banda during Good Friday services Good Friday at Saint Ignatius Church in Lusaka.
“The president has come to a realisation the cases are weak and that the DPP and his former business partner M’membe were using the state to settle personal scores with Banda,” the source said.
Sata allegedly told Nchito that he is informed that the two cases against Banda are likely to fail to due to a lack of evidence, and that the DPP should withdraw the cases.
“Nchito has been told to discontinue the cases but he’s adamant,” the source said, indicating that it is widely believed that the DPP brought the cases against the former president as a form of punishment for the bankruptcy of his business, Zambian Airways, during Banda’s presidency. “President Sata has met him more than twice on the matter but he doesn’t want to let it go, because he has a personal interest in the matter.”
There are currently two cases against former President Banda, one relating to an alleged abuse of authority regarding the importation of oil from Nigeria, and another relating to ‘gratification’ relating to motor vehicles. The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party originally sought and achieved the removal of President Banda’s immunity in the National Assembly on March 15, 2013 amid a walkout by opposition MPs. Critics of the motion to remove immunity argued that the National Assembly shouldn’t have pushed a vote while there was an open Court injunction, while the PF did not achieve a 2/3rds majority vote in the assembly.
As the two cases have proceeded very slowly over the past year, several of the state’s own witnesses have failed to support the case, including a Nigerian representative who disclosed that the oil deal never took place.
According to a separate report published by the Zambian Watchdog titled “Don’t use me to fight your battles with RB, Sata tells Mmembe and Nchito,” a growing dispute is opening up between President Sata and the duo of Nchito and M’membe. Allegedly, the president took offence to their complaints about President Banda’s recent travel to Tanzania, while others say the administration feels as though some people are abusing the party name in order to pursue their private agenda.
According to the source, the decision to order Nchito to drop the cases may be motivated by fears of future prosecution.
“Sata has also realised this path of vindictiveness against the former president may equally haunt him once he leaves office,” the source says.
Efforts to obtain comment from State House or President Banda’s camp were unsuccessful before time of publication.