The son of former Zambian president, Rupiah Banda this week told the Mail & Guardian that he could not return to Zambia because there was “reliable inside information that he is a marked man”.

Henry Banda is wanted by the Zambian authorities in connection with his alleged involvement in corrupt government deals when his father was president. The Zambian police told the Mail and Guardian that they have not made public the charges against Banda because he has not appeared before them.

Breaking his silence on the allegations against him this week, Banda confirmed being in South Africa and said “it would be unwise to return to Zambia because of the refusal by the Zambian authorities to identify the supposed charges against him”.

He said he is currently in South Africa, where “he has had permanent residency status for many years, by virtue of being married to a South African citizen”.

Banda said his legal representatives have engaged with both the Zambian and the South African authorities to establish the facts about his case. However, the Zambian authorities “have ignored his legal representatives’ requests for information, which supports the view that the so called charges are fabricated”.

He said he has “legitimate doubts” about whether he can receive fair treatment from the Zambian authorities.

South African High Commissioner to Zambia Moses Chikane told the Zambian media that South Africa cannot hand over anyone to a foreign government in the absence of charges.

"We need solid charges before any extradition can take place. In this case all we have heard is that the gentleman (Banda) is wanted for questioning, that's all," said Chikane.

He added that the Zambian authorities should use Interpol to secure lawbreakers, including Henry.

The Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister, Given Lubinda, said he would write to the South African government to have Banda extradited because efforts to use Interpol had yielded no results.

Interpol confirmed that at Zambia’s request, it had issued a red notice for Banda.

Red notices are used to inform Interpol’s 190 member countries, including South Africa, that a judicial authority has issued an arrest warrant for an individual and that people should contact the police if they have relevant information. They do not amount to an arrest warrant.

Banda’s lawyers have labelled the allegations “bogus accusations” which are “part of a wider campaign to persecute the former president, his party and the political opposition at large”. “The government of Zambia is using the false pretext of  ‘anti-corruption’ to eliminate political competition,” said lawyer Robert Amsterdam in a statement.

“In the absence of any real evidence against Henry Banda, we can see that the government is making arrests and attempting to pressure individuals to produce false evidence,” Amsterdam said.

The M&G’s disclosure that Banda is living in South Africa has had major fallout in Zambia. The country’s Post newspaper this week quoted Home Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni as saying that Banda's decision to hire high-profile, expensive lawyers indicated how much money he had accumulated when his father was president.

The legal firm appointed by Rupiah and Henry Banda last month to represent them, Amsterdam & Peroff LLP and Johannesburg-based Brian Kahn Inc, is preparing emergency appeals to international bodies to halt the “unlawful conduct” of the Zambian government.

Reacting to Rupiah Banda’s recent assertions in the Mail and Guardian that “the rule of law has given way to the rule of politics” in Zambia, Lubinda hotly denied that investigations against Banda were politically influenced.

“Issues to do with impropriety were raised when his father was still serving as president,” Lubinda said. “All types of tenders were being conducted at state house. People will remember that as (former) opposition MP, I did raise questions on oil deals that were being cut at state house.”

The minister accused Henry Banda of turning state house into the Zambia Public Procurement Authority under his father’s presidency.

Rupiah told the M&G of his distress over the Interpol red notice, saying his son was on a “political hit list” which is “part of a plan to destroy the future of the MMD (Zambia’s former ruling party).”

Henry was widely accused in the Zambian parliament and media in 2009 of brokering an allegedly corrupt deal in which a Kenyan oil trading company, Dalbit Petroleum Ltd, clinched a multimillion-dollar contract to supply finished petroleum products to Zambia.

It was alleged that Kenyan businessmen who attended the tender opening ceremony in Lusaka were given aides and escorted in a convoy of government Mercedez Benzes to State House after the ceremony.

On August 2, 2009, Zambia’s former finance minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, allowed the energy ministry to import diesel duty-free. However, as the ministry did not have the capacity to do this, it contracted, without following tender procedures, Dalbit Petroleum of Kenya and Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) of Kuwait to import the commodity at zero percent duty.

Dalbit was to supply 1.4 million litres of diesel and petrol for two years through the ports of Dar-es-Salaam and Beira. As Zambia’s only refinery, at Ndola, had been closed for maintenance, Dalbit had an effective monopoly.

Banda was accused of acting as the Kenyan firm’s agent.

The Mail and Guardian - SA, April 13 – 19 2012