It is sad that Frederick Chiluba’s legacy has been under attack by a selfish cabal who are desperate for power, says fourth republican president Rupiah Banda.

And Judge Phillip Musonda says the removal of Chiluba’s immunity was politically motivated as there was no basis to slap the second republican president with criminal charges.

Giving Chiluba’s first ever memorial lecture at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, Sunday, titled “Zambia: Land of unsung Heroes, FTJ Chiluba, the father of democracy”, Banda said Chiluba was a selfless leader who deserved to be remembered as such.

“It is sad that in recent years, the legacy of Dr Chiluba has been under attack from an unscrupulous and selfish cabal in their ruthless quest for power who painted him as a selfish enemy of the people. And I am glad that most of the people of Zambia who are seated here don’t think so,” Banda said.

“This is not the Chiluba that I, or millions of Zambians knew. Chiluba was ever approachable, cheerful, humble, he brought the presidency closer to the people…Dr Chiluba touched so many lives in so many ways, visiting the sick in hospitals, the old and the vulnerable, he would console us in our homes, using my own words, truly, Dr Chiluba was a president of all Zambians.”

He said unlike most politicians, Chiluba stuck to his promises and liberalised the economy, giving rise to the middle class.

“He immediately begun the process of transforming the economy through an open market and liberalised system which opened the economy to the world…Many of us are politicians here, we go to the people, we promise them, ‘we will do this for you, we will do that for you’, but to actually do it is very difficult. And in the case of Dr Chiluba, together with his colleagues, he went ahead and transformed the economy of this country. Subsequently, this led to the growth of the Zambian middle class. Dr Chiluba’s economic achievements, together with his colleagues, are numerous but I would like to highlight some which we all take for granted but which have had an enormous impact on the growth of our economy since 1991,” Banda said.

“Liberalisation of imports and exports, liberation of the foreign exchange system, mobilisation of internal revenue, introduction of a modern well staffed revenue authority enhanced the collection of domestic revenue to help fund public development and reduce donor dependence, that’s how he did it and I hope we will remember that that’s how he did it. Initially, jobs were lost and people suffered but ultimately, privatisation led to huge investments in mining, agriculture, transport and telecommunications that could only come about in a market driven economy.”

He said Chiluba contributed to the enhancement of press freedom.

“To quote him again, ‘the greatest lesson we can learn from the past is that freedom is at the core of every successful nation in the world’. Dr Chiluba once again declared and in the political sphere, you have to convey great strides to promote freedom and the respect for human rights anchored on institutions and roles that will support and protect our nascent democracy. Some of these are the following: Ensuring freedom of the press. I am sure a lot of young people who are lined up here or wherever political leaders are thought it was always like this, before, it was dangerous to be a journalist. Now yes, there may be individuals who may want to tackle you but the laws are there to protect you. And that’s why we enjoy a vibrant press. Even the transformation of the police force to a police service that is serving the Zambian people. I am not saying that everything is perfect now, I am just saying, it was worse that time,” said Banda.

“Zambia was at that time the pioneer and the beacon of democracy on the continent. A lot of our young people don’t know that we were the first to defeat a one party state, when I say we, I was on the other side, but I am Zambian. Yet, the flip side of that is that the leader of this struggle is not even talked about, not even in this country, never mind other countries, we don’t realise that we had a leader who sacrificed everything in order for us to get rid of the one party state.”

And Judge Musonda said the removal of Chiluba’s immunity was unfair.

“In the presidential address to lift Chiluba’s immunity, there were issues. For instance, there were allegations of the abuse of the infrastructure which was handed to the chairman of ZCCM, there were allegations of the arms purchase. When Dr Chiluba was charged in the court of law, he was charged with theft of US$500,000. Which Parliament ever approved? Parliament never authorised the charging of Dr Chiluba of stealing of US$500,000. So immediately, it was found that the allegations outlined in the address to the National Assembly could not be criminally sustained. The President ought to have gone back to the National Assembly to seek authority to charge President Chiluba with stealing US$500,000 otherwise, the court had no jurisdiction to entertain that charge. I am saying this as an academic and we have to straighten the law. That charge flew from unconstitutionality,” judge Musonda said.

“There were other charges like the loan from national commercial bank of 12 million. Does the President get loans? Was the President selling mines? It was the privatisation agency. So the veracity of the charges, in my opinion, I very seriously doubt, that’s my personal opinion.”

Judge Musonda explained why he thought the removal of Chiluba’s immunity was wrong.

“Recently, there is what we are calling lawfare and I am going to define it for you. Lawfare is a recently coined word not yet appearing in the Oxford English dictionary…it did not exist when Dr Chiluba’s immunity was lifted. It is said to be illegitimate use of the domestic or international law with the intention of damaging an opponent or tying up an opponent’s time so that they cannot pursue other ventures such as vying for public office. Law can be a sword and law can be a shield. If law is used in a vindicatory fashion, it is a shield but if law is used in an oppressive fashion, ignoring the due process, it then becomes a sword. This is what lawfare is all about. Time has come that such processes [removal of immunity] should be institutionalised and should not be victims of political considerations because if the processes so become, in the case of Dr Chiluba, the rule of law is undermined. The primary movers of the process should be investigative wings which will lay the facts and law before the national assembly,” he said.

“Simply put, we should professionalise and not politicise the investigations against a former president or indeed any citizen. Otherwise, it becomes rule of man and not rule of law. We saw lawfare in this country, we saw lawfare in Malasyia in 1999, we have seen lawfare in South Africa, and there is a potential one in a country which has been a beacon of political stability in Africa, Botswana between the former president Ian Khama, who is being attacked by his successors after he has resigned from the ruling party and joined the opposition.”

He argued that it would make more sense for investigative wings to lead calls for the removal of the immunity.

“I am not suggesting that if it is professionally determined, and I mean professionally determined that a former president has committed offences, he should be charged, he shouldn’t be let go but what we are against is political considerations or investigations to be politically led because once the sitting president has pronounced the guilt of his predecessor, the minds of investigators are coloured. These are individuals you can hire and fire at will. They say he who is responsible for your sustenance controls your will so you will control the will and they will start finding charges,” said Judge Musonda.

“It is my considered view that Dr Chiluba did not merit the unfair treatment he went through. He was deprived of an opportunity to clear his name from the allegations on which the removal of his immunity was anchored.”

Among those who attended were Xaviour Chungu, Judge Sunday Nkonde, former vice-president Enock Kavindele, Ng’andu Magande, Fackson Shamenda, Gaston Sichilima, Lameck Mangani, Felix Mutati and Kelvin Bwalya Fube.

Others were his son Darlington, ex-wife Vera, former press aide Richard Sakala, presidential affairs minister Eric Silwamba, Sakwiba Sikota and Nason Msoni.