By Michael Malakata in Lusaka, Zambia
Stella Libongani, the new Zambian police chief, has made history as first woman south of the Sahara appointed in post.
In a dramatic turn of events, Zambian President Michael Sata has fired the Inspector General of Police Dr Martin Malama, who has been instrumental in tracking down former president Rupiah Banda’s son, Henry Banda, who is wanted by police over corruption allegations. Zambian police this month issued Henry Banda a ‘red alert’ as they try to extradite him from Kenya where he is allegedly hiding. The red alert is the highest notice the police, who have issued a warrant of arrest for Mr Banda, can issue on a wanted person who is also on a ‘wanted’ list now in the hands of Interpol.
The appointments were announced in a statement released by the President’s Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations, George Chellah, in Lusaka Wednesday. Press sources say, Ms Libongani welcomed the promotion describing it as ‘a surprise’. Having just been sworn in as Deputy Inspector-General only last October, Ms Libongani said another promotion during such a short period was a moving experience. She pledged to work hard and combat crime head on and thanked the President for the confidence he had in her by promoting her as the first woman Inspector-General of Police not only in Zambia but also in East, Central and Southern Africa.
Sata has consistently said former President Banda, his son and all the former ministers who were involved in corrupt activities should prove their innocence in court and regarded Malama as a professional. The ex-Inspector General was instrumental in tracking down the younger Banda and have him arrested and brought back to Zambia answer to various corruption charges.
But Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has denied reports that Henry Banda was hiding in Kenya. Wetangula said Henry Banda made several visits to the East African country over the past few months but said he was not in Kenya at present. Malama said Henry was wanted in connection with serious cases that border on several illegalities that could have been committed while his father was president of Zambia.
The firing of Malama comes only four days after ex-President Banda accepted Sata’s offer to be part of the delegation that was sent to Gabon to support the Zambia national soccer team during last weekend’s final of the Africa Cup of Nations between Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire that Zambia won on penalties after a 120-minutes goal-less draw. Banda was also part of a huge crowd that attended a luncheon at State House yesterday (February 14) that was hosted by the country’s First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba for the national team players.
Few hours after Banda was seen dancing to the popular Donch Kubeba song that was adopted by Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) party as their campaign song, Sata announced that ‘Malama was no longer the Police chief’. He said he had decided to send Malama into Foreign Service. Malama was immediately replaced by his deputy Stella Libongani who now becomes the country’s first female Inspector General of Police in the country’s history.
Early this month, Banda described as ‘silly’ Malama’s action to issue an arrest warrant to his son. Banda said Malama was, “supposed to protect Zambians instead of inciting people.” Henry’s name and that of former Minister of Communications and Transport Dora Siliya have been linked to a Cayman Island-registered Company, RP Capital. According to the Commission of Inquiry report on the sale of the telecoms company, RP Capital allegedly paid up to US$12.6 million (about K64 billion) to valuate Zamtel assets whose value it placed at under US$20 million when the market value in two years’ time is expected to peak at about US$5 billion. Zamtel was sold in 2010 for a total of US$257 million by the Banda administration.
Henry Banda is alleged to have pocketed part of the money paid to RP capital for the evaluation of Zamtel assets. Dora Siliya has already been arrested by the police over Zamtel. Last month, the Zambian government reversed the sale of Zamtel to Lap Green Networks of Libya following the Commission of Inquiry report which revealed glaring irregularities in the sale of the company.
The firing of Malama raises serious questions as to whether the Zambian Head of State is truly serious and able to fight the rampant corruption in the country.