Ex-diplomat defends RB

I EXPECTED the acquittal in favour of former president Rupiah Banda because he was not involved in the US$2.5million Government to Government oil deal, former first secretary for politics and administration at the Zambian High Commission in Nigeria Christine Phiri has said.

And Ms Phiri has asked Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) to revert to its core values of offering corruption checks and balances rather than to be an institution used to vilify individuals.

Commenting on the acquittal of former President Banda, Ms. Phiri said the Government Joint Investigating Team (GJIT) summoned her in an attempt to make her a State witness in the matter but that she declined.

She said she declined to be a witness because Mr. Banda did not commit any crime and that he was not involved in the oil deal which was started by former deputy High commissioner Major Richard Kachingwe.

Ms. Banda said when she was summoned and briefed by officers from Government Joint Investigating Team (GJIT) in Woodlands at the time, she informed them that there was nothing to be a witness on because the former head of State had not committed any crime.

“I refused to be made state witness by the Government Joint Investigating Team (GJIT) in Woodlands because there was no case against RB. It was all witchhunt and honestly I expected this acquittal of Rupiah Banda.

“I declined to be State witness because I knew that the man had done nothing wrong. He was not involved in the oil deal. Actually I was shocked that people who were behind the whole oil deal between Zambia and Nigeria were made to be witnesses against RB,” said Ms. Phiri.

She explained that she had decided to speak now because there was a lot of malice and innuendos to malign President Edgar Lungu for RB’s acquittal when in fact the Head of State had nothing to do with the outcome.

Ms. Phiri explained that Zambians who were interested to know what really transpired should ask Maj. Kachingwe who was behind the oil deal to explain who was making arrangements for his movements and other things.

“I was also shocked that people like Major Richard Kachingwe who was at the centre of the whole oil deal, and started the process became state witness. I facilitated Maj. Kachingwe’s movements and saw all that happened. RB was not involved and he did not start the deal, it was Maj. Kachingwe. RB was only informed that the Zambian Government was about to enter into an oil supply deal with the Nigerian oil marketing company,” she said.

Ms. Phiri said that she had told the GJIT that the case would embarrass them because the former head of State did not steal.

“What I must tell the people of Zambia and civil society organisations such as the Transparency International Zambia is to stop the hate against RB. He is not a crook as you want to paint him. He saved this country diligently,” said Ms. Phiri.

And Ms. Phiri has lashed out at TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu’s statement suggesting that the acquittal against RB had defeated the fight of corruption.

Ms Phiri said Mr. Lungu should realise that the essence of justice was not to send people to jail but to correct the situation and to ensure that both the accused and the accuser were given a fair hearing.

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