In a dynamic political landscape filled with challenges and allegations, Zambia’s former President Edgar Lungu’s legal representative has raised his voice in protest against what he perceives as a political witch hunt. This response is a reaction to the government’s recent takeover of nearly 20 properties that are believed to be tied to the family of President Edgar Lungu.
The Zambian administration’s current head of state has been ardently pursuing a path of eradicating corruption since assuming office. However, critics have questioned his motives, suggesting that the fight against corruption has veered into the territory of targeting political opponents, particularly those associated with former President Edgar Lungu.
This significant seizure of properties connected to the Lungu family was officially carried out last week by the government. The seized properties include an impressive portfolio of 15 two-story flats, a three-story lodge, an agricultural farm, and a residential house. The authority for this governmental action stems from the 2010 Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crimes Law, which legally permits the state to commandeer assets they suspect were attained through illicit activities.
Representing the interests of former President Lungu, lawyer Makebi Zulu expressed his concerns in a conversation with VOA. Zulu confirmed that neither he nor his clients have received any official court notice regarding the seizure of these properties. Since the investigation commenced last year, Zulu contends that his clients have provided sufficient justification for their asset accumulation. However, he accuses the state of deliberately concealing this information to tarnish the reputation of Lungu, his wife Esther, and their children.
Zulu remains firm in his conviction, declaring, “We are confident that we are standing on firm ground. Our clients are innocent of everything that they are alleging.” He further expresses disappointment with the lack of in-depth investigations, stating, “As a matter of fact, we are disappointed that they’re not getting down to investigate matters as they ought to.”
Emmanuel Mwamba, a spokesperson for Lungu’s Patriotic Front party, echoed these sentiments in an interview with VOA. He admonished the government for what he believed to be an abuse of the law. According to Mwamba, the properties under dispute were seized prematurely, prior to the completion of the necessary investigations.
From Mwamba’s perspective, “The law enforcement agencies are seizing assets of people belonging to the Patriotic Front, to the family of the former president, just as a political witch hunt.”
On the other hand, Gilbert Phiri, the Zambian director of public prosecutions, staunchly defends the government’s position. He iterates on the government’s determination to stem corruption, stating, “The wheels of recovering assets may appear to grind slowly, but they will grind anyway.”
Boniface Cheembe, the executive director of the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, a renowned human rights NGO, chimed in on this political tug-of-war. While acknowledging the current government’s commitment to its anti-corruption agenda, he expressed hope that prosecutors will maintain impartiality throughout the process.
Despite the ongoing political turmoil, critics of the current President Hakainde Hichilema have pointed out that although numerous arrests and investigations have been conducted, no convictions have been secured yet. The president, however, remains steadfast, asserting that his fight against corruption is not an attempt to victimize his political adversaries. His administration remains committed to ensuring that justice prevails, regardless of the political affiliations of those involved.