THE hasty removal of former president Rupiah Banda’s immunity and his subsequent prosecution by the State was meant to settle political scores and the courts should not be used by politicians to persecute citizens perceived to be politically incorrect, the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) has said.
FODEP executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said the acquittal of former president Banda should be a lesson to politicians in Government that the courts should not be used to persecute perceived political enemies.
Mr Chipenzi said the State had accused Mr Banda of several corruption allegations when it rushed to Parliament to strip the former president of his immunity from prosecution but Zambians had not been told what had happened to the allegations because Mr Banda was in court for only two cases.
He said FODEP was congratulating former president Banda for his acquittal and that the State should learn that political malice and vengeance could not be used to fight corruption.
Mr Banda was on Monday acquitted in a case he was accused of having benefited from the purported US$2.5 million government to government Nigerian oil deal.
Magistrate Joshua Banda in his ruling said Mr Banda had no case-to-answer and consequently acquitted him on account that the evidence was grossly inconsistent and State prosecution team which was led by suspended Director of Public Prosecution, (DPP) Mutembo Nchito incompetent.
Mr Chipenzi said the State had failed to prove to the courts that Mr Banda had committed corruption crimes and the courts had no choice but to acquit the former president.
He told the Daily Nation that Government rushed to remove Mr Banda’s immunity and hurriedly took him to court before they could establish the allegations against the former president and it was not surprising that the State had lost the case.
“We are wondering whether the allegations against former president Banda were true or just politically motivated. But the acquittal of Mr Banda should be a lesson to politicians in power never to fall to the temptation of using the courts to settle political scores. Mr Banda was accused of many corruption allegations and the State excitedly rushed to Parliament to remove Mr Banda’s immunity even when they did not know the crimes he had committed. Mr Banda has appeared in court for only two allegations and he has just been acquitted on one. We can only congratulate him but we wish to caution our leaders never to use their emotions to fight corruption,” Mr Chipenzi said.
He stated that there had been a trend in Zambia where every successive government had been prosecuting the leaders of the previous government, recalling that when Levy Mwanawasa became president, he went for Dr Frederick Chiluba.
Mr Chipenzi stated that soon after Michael Sata assumed the presidency, former president Banda was branded corrupt and a crusade was launched to have his immunity removed so that he could be prosecuted.
During Mr Banda’s trial, a Nigerian tycoon Akpan Ekpen stunned the court and the prosecution when he testified that the former president had no hand whatsoever in the Nigerian oil deal and that the former head of state did not solicit for any money.
Mr Ekpen, the SARB Energy managing director, broke down during the prosecution and protested that he did not know why he was being involved in the prosecution of Mr Banda because the former head of State was a man of honour.