Thursday, 3 June 2010

I write what I like….The rehabilitation of Frederick Chiluba

This article – By Guest Writer: Nkonkomalimba Kafunda

3rd June, 2010.

The recent high profile meeting between former president Frederick Chiluba and traditional and political leaders in Luapula province has brought to full circle the complete restoration of Chiluba from political pariah to top insider in the corridors of MMD power.

Ostracised in the Mwanawasa years as kingpin in the plunder of the country’s resources during his eventful ten year reign, Chiluba and his close associates were dragged before court after court charged with stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, property of the Republic of Zambia

Though personally never convicted in a Zambian court, London High Court Judge Peter Smith found that Chiluba and his fellow defendants had embezzled millions of dollars after the Zambian government sued Chiluba and others among them a Law firm, individuals and boutiques in a bid to recover plundered national resources. The judgement can however not be enforced in Zambia as it has not been registered in the local high court due to what can only be described as government inertia.

Some of Chiluba’s associates particularly his wife Regina, fund managers Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe have been found guilty and sentenced to prison terms for various offences and but currently out of prison pending appeals in the high court. In a bizarre turn of legal events, Mrs. Chiluba was convicted by one court for receiving stolen goods from her husband while another acquitted Chiluba the alleged mastermind on all counts.

During his years in the political wilderness Chiluba was loathe to attend state functions preferring to stick to himself comforted by members of Pentecostal clergy with their all too conspicuous bibles complemented by their all too loud proclamations of faith. The former President was a man with friends few and far between, even his former ministers who had pledged undying loyalty in years previously, did not even think of touching him with a ten foot pole.

Fast forward to 2010 and the centre of power seems to have shifted to Serval Road, Chiluba’s official residence as second head of state. The metamorphoses from Zero to hero began soon after President Levy Mwanawasa’s death. Then Vice President Rupiah Banda had no credentials to take over the leadership of the MMD. Seen by many as a very fortunate Unipist who Levy had credited with delivering Eastern province in the 2006 elections, Banda had to consolidate his power, build a nationwide following and generally gain acceptance from the rank and file of the ruling party. Working for him was the fact that the position of party Vice president had been deliberately left vacant by the somewhat paranoid Mwanawasa who had seen usurpers of power in all who had sought that position at the last party convention. Chiluba’s support was seen as cardinal in creating a constituency for RB.

Soon after Banda’s confirmation as MMD candidate politicians of all hues and with varied motives relentlessly campaigned for Banda. The surprising package, though, was Chiluba. Throughout his legal problems and exile from main stream political power, Chiluba had relied heavily on support from the Patriotic Front. It was therefore, surprising to see Chiluba’s campaigning all out for RB as the President is known to his friends. The sensational break with PF’s Michael Sata showed that Chiluba had chosen what was politically expedient over what was morally acceptable.

Speculation was rife that a deal had been made to make Chiluba’s problems with the courts go away in exchange for his political support, which would have the effect of weakening the PF and enhancing RB’s chances of victory. The rest, as the say, is history.

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