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Zambia: Reactions to Chiluba's acquittal

A magistrate in Lusaka acquitted former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba of corruption charges this week in a ruling that has received mixed reactions in Zambia.

Chiluba was accused of stealing about $500,000 to support his extravagant lifestyle when he served his two term from 1991 – 201 after defeating Zambia's first President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, in Zambia's first multi-party elections.

Although Chiluba supported his successor, the late Levy Mwanawasa, it was Mwanawasa who pushed for the Parliament to lift Chiluba's immunity in 2002 to facilitate criminal proceedings against him. Earlier this year, the London High Court found him guilty and ordered him to pay back the money he stole from the government.

Following the judgement that cleared him of corruption charges, Chiluba's lawyers have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly demanding the restoration of his presidential immunity.

In Malawi, the former President Bakili Muluzi is also facing corruption charges.

Let's see what Zambian bloggers and their readers say about the judgement and the future of the fight against corruption in Zambia.

“Justice by executive order- The Era of Bwezani Banda”, is the title of a post by Mwankole in reaction to the ruling. Mwankole argues that the current President, Rupiah Banda, influenced court's judgement:

Despite the overwhelming evidence presented, which in some bizarre fashion was sufficient to convict his principal accomplices Faustin Kabwe and Aaron Chungu to 3 years of hard labor prison sentences, Chiluba come off without the slightest pretense of a reprimand. Chiluba was the President in charge when Kabwe and Chungu were stealing; further the evidence for all intents and purposes points to the duo carrying water on Chiluba’s behalf.
Doesn’t he bear some responsibility, if not all? Does the buck not stop at plot one?

Proof that it is not the weight of evidence that determines the outcome of significant legal cases in Zambia; it is the executive that calls the shorts.
It therefore follows, that Magistrate Jones Chinyama had to buy himself more time before passing judgment on Chiluba, a whole weekend to consult the almighty Rupiah Bwezani Banda [The President of Zambia]. He then had, come up with 6 hours long blah…blah, that let loose without so much as a slap on wrist, one of Zambia’s most unscrupulous plunderer simply because the current plunder did not want a precedent set.

A reader at Zambia Watchdog says:

The mess Levy has left behind is that on one hand we have a London Judgement while on the other hand we have a Zambian Judgement. Which one does one go for. The Post and the like obviously will be full of praise for the London judgement while people like me prefer the Zambian judgement. We all know that the British and American would not agree to have anyone of their own tried in a foreign country. Remember those 2 black British School girls who some two years or so were caught in Accra with drugs. The British Govt fought hard to have them tried in Britain and not Ghana. Why then should we subject our former presidents, no matter how bad one might be to a foreign court if others can refuse to have mere school girls tried abroad? What arrogance. Levy got it wrong. In any case apart from shoes and shirts what else is there to show that FTJ stole.

Another one warns African dictators:

Dictators of Africa who are stealing from their pipo should not liken Chiluba’s judgement will apply to them too. Muluzi’s case is in Malawi and Malawi is not Zambia. I feel the prosecuting government in Malawi will tighten the loose ends and send Muluzi to jail after learning that Zambia has failed to send Chiluba to jail.
Chiluba will enter jail briefly and am seeing it. The London court is not silly to have judged him that way after having enough evidence that he stole from the Zambian pipo. Not all Zambians are happy with the Jones Chinyama ruling so far. RB should not cheat that Zambians ve accepted the ruling, we are still following up and if he had a hand to this judgement, time will catch with him also. His on record already, ‘Chiluba good damn president’.

Ben Israel is disappointed at the ruling but not shocked:

It is extremely disappointing to hear such news BUT am personally not shocked, Chiluba’s freedom was inevitable… I mean this case was supposed to have been over the moment they (prosecutors) started probbing. There was truely enough evidence to use against Chiluba but the moment they started dragging shoes in the issue we should have known it was a lost cause.
Perhaps if Levy was still alive the outcome might have been different because it seems like he was the only one brave enough to do the Zambian people Justice. Chiluba destroyed many lives and I know this for certain because I come from the copperbelt, Luanshya to be exact and I saw first hand the kind of confusion which arose during the privatisation era (people lost houses and Jobs and mining towns became Ghost towns).
Now suddenly Chiluba is the victim, this my people is pure evidence of how corrupt Zambia really is. We need to do something radical about this cancer (corruption), our leaders have no will to serve us – the only thing that concerns them is money and power.

Zambia Watchdog writes about the call for restoration of Chiluba's immunity:

Speaker of the National Assembly Amusaa Mwanamwaambwa is reportedly under pressure to immediately convene parliament to restore former president Fredrick Chiluba’s immunity.
Sources at Parliament have told the Watchdog that the speaker has problems convening parliament because of the way the demand has been made.
Chiluba’s lawyers Simeza Sangwa and Associates wrote to the speaker on Tuesday for him to convene parliament.

Ulemona responds to the news:

Is there no one left with a back bone and integrity? Twachula pafula [It means “We have suffered enough” in Bemba). Pls Mr Speaker, save Zambia and stop this nonsense!

Zambiano says:

The MPs should for once stand for the Zambian people and reject this. It would deny those of us who want government to appeal our chance. Too much money was stolen and these guys have either walked Scot free or got cosmetic sentences. We are watching!

B M says:

Nkole [Nkole is the Chairman of the Task Force on Corruption] must shutup,how much taxpayers money do they want worst on cases they can’t win in our courts,he’s mentioning other cases how far have they gone?the Task Force chairman is very mean,taskforce must be dissolved forthwith..these prosecutors must find jobs elsewhere.Chiluba has suffered alot under these political cases that even from the onset direction was difficult to tell…Can Nkole tell the the nation for the past 8years what has happened to the remaining cases,why the delay?its simple it benefitts him and other collegues at Taskforce!

Zambian Progress thinks that the ruling is an indication of Zambian government weakness on corruption:

While many Zambians will point accusing fingers at Ndola High Registrar. We must realise that FJT's free ride is not about the presiding magistrate but MMD government and its plans which has proven itself in this case that it is weak, soft and legally incompetent to prosecute corruption cases.We not blame for the magistrate for acquittal; but hold MMD accountable for failing to prove the case.

Then, there is RB telling the nation that he is happy for Zambians to accept Chiluba walk to freedom; please!!! Chiluba was already accepted by Zambians. We Know he destroyed the economy through credit privatisation of the companise withour oversight and accountability. Zambians accepted him when he wanted a Third Term and we accepted him when Zambian had no medicines in hospitals, Chiluba was buying designer suits and shoes.

Zambians must respect the ruling of court but hold MMD government accountable in the manner it handled this case. MMD government has wasted taxpayer's money with this case which many top MMD officials knew it was a dead end. Zambians deserve to know who how much MMD government has spend on this case since it started. This is total wasteful spending by the government.

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