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DÉJÀ VU

DÉJÀ VU

WE have been here before.

Thirty years ago in 1991, a barrage of corruption allegations besieged ruling Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’ United National Independence Party (UNIP). 

Accusations ranged from selling copper and cobalt surreptitiously resulting in huge kickbacks that were stashed abroad.

By the time elections came around towards the end of the year, Coppergate, as it was then known had taken its toll. UNIP lost dismally to the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). 

Subsequent investigations dismissed the claim of widespread pillage, but it was too late, the damage had been done. 

It is ironic that some of Kenneth Kaunda’s  harshest critics  and accusers, those who were in the forefront accusing him of being a ruthless dictator leading a cabal of copper and cobalt thieves, became over time his most ardent supporters and disciples.

Ten years later in 2001, the same people who accused KK of heinous crimes, turned their turrets against second Republican President Dr. Frederick Chiluba whom they accused of corruption and unconscionable abuse of power. 

The attacks were vicious and brutal eroding MMD”s popularity to the extent that third Republican President Levy Mwanawasa won by one of the slimmest majorities.

No sooner had he assumed office than he joined the bandwagon against his predecessor. He petitioned Parliament to remove Dr. Chiluba”s immunity to facilitate prosecution. 

Parliament obliged and more than 100 cases were brought against Dr Chiluba. The international community was mobilised to fund what was then called an epic anti-corruption campaign under the infamous Task Force.

Even as persecution started, many of the allegations that formed the basis for the removal of immunity fell by the wayside but it took seven years, for the matter to be settled with an acquittal. 

But damage had been done, the pressure took its toll on Dr Chiuba’s life. 

Meanwhile some of the cases from that era are still in courts of law to date.

It is equally ironic that while President Mwanawasa was prosecuting Dr. Chiluba serious issues about his own conduct in the sale of Konkola Copper Mines became common knowledge.

Later, serious audit queries were raised regarding errand and abusive custody of funds by the Task Force. Investigation revealed that offshore accounts were opened into which proceeds from contributions were illegally deposited. To date the matter has not been fully resolved.

Indeed, nearly 20 years later fourth Republican President Rupiah Banda, under whose guard the illegal and disgraced Task Force was disbanded, suffered similar fate, when the same “Mwanawasa” prosecution cabal accused and prosecuted him of corruption and abuse of office. Gladly he was acquitted.

Indeed 30 years later sixth Republican President Edgar Lungu and some of his colleagues are facing trial in the court of public opinion with allegations of massive corruption and abuse of authority.

Fortunately this time round, robust measures have been introduced to safeguard the Presidency from spurious, malicious, abusive and often misguided allegations that have characterised previous regimes. 

It is our hope that the commitment to the rule of law will be observed to ensure that those who are accused of any wrong doing are given an opportunity to be treated as stipulated by law.

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