By KENNEDY LIMWANYA-
On the morning of February 3, 2012, Zambia’s former first lady Thandiwe Banda appeared at the Zambia Police Headquarters in Lusaka for questioning.
Ms Banda was summoned by the Joint Government Investigation Team (JGIT) in relation to the source of funding for the Mpundu Trust Limited, which owned luxurious villas at sub-division A 29, Leopards Hill Road in Lusaka and a bank account which allegedly held about K5 billion (unrebased).
The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), which Ms Banda’s husband, former president Rupiah Banda, had led in government, had been out of power for just a little over four months.
About two weeks earlier, a restriction order had been served on Ms Banda and Robert Ashley Penny, who were the directors of Mpundu Trust Limited.
A restriction order on a property title is an entry on the title deed which prevents one from selling the property, transferring equity or getting a mortgage.
Ms Banda appeared before the JGIT and was questioned for more than two hours.
After Ms Banda’s questioning, attention shifted to her aunt, Ms Esnart Kapufi,’s house on Masuwa Road, in Nyumba Yanga residential area.
The JGIT conducted a thorough search at Ms Kapufi’s house from around 12:00 hours up to nearly 18:00 hours.
When his wife was being questioned, former president Banda chose not to accompany her and never uttered a word regarding the investigation, search or questioning.
He had confidence in the systems he had presided over not long before and the team of lawyers who had accompanied Ms Banda to the Zambia Police Headquarters.
Similarly, Mr Banda did not cry victim or parade himself before cameras to issue disparaging remarks against his successor Michael Sata.
Nearly four months later, on May 31, 2012, former president Banda’s son, Andrew, who was Zambia’s deputy high commissioner to India, was arrested for allegedly being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
He would later face prosecution.
The Patriotic Front (PF) government, which had assumed office in September 2011, had displayed itself as a political party that had come to power to stamp out corruption and investigate the alleged impropriety of the past.
To many PF officials and sympathisers, the new government was on the right trajectory of fighting corruption and there was, therefore, nothing wrong with investigating members of the immediate-past first family of former president Banda.
Now, is it not wrong to question, arrest or take family members of a former president to court?
Here is how former president Banda responded to the French news agency, AFP, when asked about his son Andrew’s arrest on May 31, 2012.
“But the courts have many people’s sons and daughters. Everybody goes before the police. So, let’s not make this an issue.”
If it was not an issue then, why should it be an issue in 2022?
Ms Esther NyawaTembo Lungu, the immediate-past first lady, has been summoned to appear before the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to respond to questions regarding the 15 mansions that have been seized by the state in the State Lodge area in Lusaka.
Before Mr Lungu’s wife was summoned, his son Dalitso and daughter Tasila had been availed an opportunity to respond to some questions regarding their property.
The immediate reactions from both former president Lungu, PF officials and sympathisers is one that creates an impression that all of them were not yet born when former president Banda, his family members and MMD officials were questioned after leaving office.
Is what is good for the goose not good for the gander?
Why should it be wrong for the new government to apply the same standards that the PF set in 2011?
It has taken nearly 11 months for Ms Lungu to be invited for questioning regarding her purported ownership of the 15 mansions that are suspected to be proceeds of crime.
In this regard, it is shamelessly hypocritical of former PF government officials to claim that they are being persecuted by the UPND government for simply being asked to explain the sources of their massive wealth which they did not have before 2011.
The PF government was not this patient when they took power in 2011 and went on rampage, searching, interrogating and arresting nearly everyone who served in the MMD government or was associated with the Banda family without even carrying out thorough investigations.
Within weeks after the PF took power, Mr Banda’s first-born son, James, was accused of being involved in the disappearance of gold that had been seized by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) but this turned out to be false.
Similarly, Inspector-General of Police Martin Malama had told the nation that another of Mr Banda’s sons, Henry, had been placed on the Interpol list for undisclosed offences.
It can, therefore, be inferred that the questioning and arrests that are taking place, months after the United Party for National Development (UPND) came into office, fall in line with what President Hakainde Hichilema has consistently emphasised, that no arrests should take place without conclusive investigations.
Besides, if one has not committed any crime, they should be very happy to avail themselves for questioning instead of beginning to make political statements while trying to rally sympathisers to protest, machinations that are aimed at derailing the wheels of justice.
Every person should be amenable before the law, especially those who have had the privilege of holding public office which has exposed them to the allure of public resources.
If one has held public office before or has been a politically-influential person, is it asking for too much for them to be requested to explain the science they used to suddenly become filthily rich?
It becomes even more critical for those whose financial status was well known before 2011 or, in the case of some, 2015, to simply explain where they found the money to build more than 20 mansions dotted around Lusaka.
It would be fair to avail such a get-rich-quick formula to the public so that the government can apply the same to lift the underprivileged from squalor.
What, then, is the resistance about?
The only way Zambia is going to deter its future leaders from dipping their fingers into public resources is by makingformer leaders account for the wealth accumulated during their stay in office.
No one is above the law and there should be no sacred cows, as former Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo once said at a PF interactive forum in Lusaka.
Indeed, no one.
In the United States (US), a Democratic-led inquiry has been carrying out investigations to show that President Donald Trump conspired to prevent the peaceful transfer of power when his supporters stormed Congress on January 6, 2021 in a bid to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
In Angola, the late former president Jose Eduardo do Santos’ daughter Isabel has been under investigation while his brother was even jailed for corruption.
Back in Zambia, the PF government not only went for former president Banda’s family but also stripped his immunity and prosecuted him.
Before that, the PF government even attempted to break the Zambian Constitution when they weighed in on the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to summon Mr Banda for questioning despite him still enjoying immunity.
On February 4, 2013, ACC director-general RosewinWandi sent a call-out to Mr Banda, requesting him to appear at the DEC offices on February 7, 2013 for questioning.
In the call-out, Ms Wandi further warned: “. . . should you elect not to accept this invitation, which you are entitled to, the law enforcement agencies will have no option but to pursue other legal avenues.”
That was the injustice Mr Banda endured at the hands of the PF before he helped them win the 2015 presidential election.
What avenues are available to compel a former president’s wife or, indeed, a former president to reveal the source of unexplained wealth?
Should former presidents and their families continue to be held accountable as shown by the PF since 2011?
(The author is former State House Chief Analyst for Press and Public Relations in the Rupiah Banda administration).