By PERPETUAL SICHIKWENKWE –
FORMER Republican President Rupiah Banda’s trip to South Africa was yesterday blocked because the former Head of State is on a travel ban.
Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu said Mr Banda was blocked at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport for fear that he would sabotage ongoing investigations against him.
Mr Lungu said immigration authorities were in a dilemma on whether to allow Mr Banda to travel or not.
Mr Banda was supposed to travel to South Africa where he was expected to attend this year’s African Presidential Centre Round-table conference.
The Boston University African Presidential Centre that invited Mr Banda had re-booked him on yesterday’s South African Airways flight at 07:15 hours in Lusaka.
However, immigration officers stopped Mr Banda and his surety Mikatazo Wakumelo from leaving the country.
Lusaka High Court Judge-in-charge Jane Kabuka on Thursday ordered the release of Mr Banda’s passport to enable him to travel to South Africa.
But Mr Lungu said at a media briefing yesterday that Mr Banda’s second attempt to travel out of the country could not be allowed because his departure would have been prejudicial to the ongoing investigations.
He said Mr Banda had been placed on a travel embargo by investigative wings and was yesterday denied exit because it was feared that he would tamper with evidence and witnesses.
He said the Government had standing instructions to different investigative wings not to allow Mr Banda to travel without clearance.
“… Mr Banda is currently being probed by investigative wings such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Government Joint Investigative Team on various allegations of public interest, some of which require gathering information from witnesses outside the country.
“Our worry and concern is that if Mr Banda is allowed to go outside the country, there is a high likelihood that he may tamper with evidence and witnesses or sabotage investigations altogether,” he said.
Mr Lungu said Government was committed to the rule of law contrary to misconceptions by some sectors.
The minister said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito complied with the court order by releasing Mr Banda’s passport.
He said there was separation of powers and that if the court felt the investigations should be conducted under its supervision, it would be a breach of the long-established need to separate the functions of the executive from the judiciary.
Mr Lungu, who said he knew about the court order through the media, said that Mr Banda’s lawyers should have availed Attorney General Mumba Malila with a copy of the court order.
“So this morning, our officers were in a dilemma. They did not know what to do, whether to allow Mr Banda to go and that is the more reason I have asked the DPP to avail me with a copy of the judgment so that I can go and see the Attorney General to guide me. That is how the rule of law operates,” Mr Lungu said.
Speaking to journalists shortly after he was blocked, Mr Banda accused Mr Nchito of having a personal vendetta against him.
Mr Banda’s deputy administrative assistant, Kennedy Limwanya said the former President was blocked by immigration officers who informed him that