Magazine article New African

'Things Are Going to Get Dirtier': President Levy Mwanawasa Has Had His "Zero Tolerance on Corruption", but His Victims Appear to Have Something That Could Bring the House Down on Him. (around Africa: Zambia)

Magazine article New African

'Things Are Going to Get Dirtier': President Levy Mwanawasa Has Had His "Zero Tolerance on Corruption", but His Victims Appear to Have Something That Could Bring the House Down on Him. (around Africa: Zambia)

Article excerpt

Corruption allegations are threatening to bring into Zambia--one of Africa's most peaceful nations--unprecedented levels of political divisiveness, hatred and who knows what else.

President Mwanawasa may owe his thanks to the editor of The Post, Fred Mmembe, a fervent Chiluba opponent. Mmebe's relentless campaign challenging former President Frederick Chiluba led to the exposure (through a court order) of the now famously controversial ZAMTROP account, a London-based bank account belonging to the Zambian Security and Intelligence Services (ZSIS).

In a matter of months, ZAMTROP had become the springboard for Mwanawasa's 'war on corruption and economic plunder".

The reasons were nor far fetched. After a vicious and sometimes cruel campaign against Mwanawasa during last year's presidential campaign--in which, among other labels, he was called a "cabbage" and "Chiluba's vegetate puppet" (emanating from rumours that he never fully recovered from the horrific head injuries he sustained in a 1994 car accident)--it was never doubted that Mwanawasa's first fight as president would be to prove that he was his own man, and physically and mentally fit to rule.

And so, almost a year into office, proving this has been Mwanawasa's main focus, and the "war on corruption" the means to do it.

But in the meantime details are emerging that although the president has so far shown to be no lame duck, his own hands are not politically clean either and he may have shot himself in the foot by exposing Chiluba & Co too much.

Mwanawasa hit the roof when allegations were made that Chiluba and some of his most senior officials, including the intelligence chief Xavier Chungu, the former chief justice Matthew Ngulube and the former foreign minister Vernon Mwaanga were beneficiaries of the ZAMTROP account. His clampdown led to the arrest of some of Chiluba's most senior officials, including Chungu and Atan Shansonga, the former ambassador to the US. Most decisively, at Mwanawasa's request, Parliament stripped Chiluba of is immunity so he could be prosecuted for "plunder of the country's omy through corruption."

But Zambian law states that a person who has held, but no longer holds, the office of president cannot be charged with a criminal offence or be amenable to the criminal jurisdiction of any court, in respect of any act done by him while in office. Only Parliament can remove this immunity, arid it did so.

Chiluba tried to challenge the decision by applying for a high court injunction until his side of the case had been heard. But his application was thrown out as the court ruled that Parliament acted within its powers.

Soon after the court's ruling, the Special Task Force created to investigate and deal with the issue, went on a spree of home searches, including those of Chiluba, Mwaanga and Ben Mwila, a prominent opposition politician and millionaire businessman. The Task Force also invaded the homes of Chiluba's lawyers, John Sangwa and Robert Simeza.

Strangely, as more juicy bits of the case were revealed, Mwanawasa suddenly appeared to lose enthusiasm with ZAMTROP and the other corruption charges. New African can now reveal why. First, Mwanawasa has now been furnished with the details (by Chiluba, Chungu and the others) of how the money was actually used for intelligence operations and special security projects which, for reasons of national security, cannot be publicised. …

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