Task force has summoned former president Rupiah Banda

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TASK Force has summoned former president Rupiah Banda to appear for questioning on Monday over alleged corruption after parliament stripped him of immunity from prosecution in what analysts see as a further assault on the opposition. The weekend summons could mean the government is preparing official charges against Mr Banda, who has been accused of abuse of office and the misappropriation of more than $11m of public funds during his three years as president. Mr Banda’s is the latest in a series of court actions against opposition leaders by the government of President Michael Sata, which claims that it is only concerned about fighting corruption in line with its election pledges. “We are responding to demands by the Zambian people. We are interested in raising, not subverting, democracy and its institutions. We must set a precedent. People go to public office to serve people and not to ransack the national treasury,” Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba told Business Day. “I don’t think that democracy is under threat. One of the tenets of democracy is accountability by public officers. We are simply asking that those who have served account for what we perceive to be anomalies in the period they served,” he said. Opposition leaders and civil society groups in Zambia are increasingly being prevented from holding party or interparty meetings in Zambia; they can no longer even hold media events. Opposition leader Nevers Mumba said stripping Mr Banda of his immunity, the second time that had happened with a former president in Zambia, had heightened tension and anxiety in the usually stable country. The first time was against former president Frederick Chiluba, who was eventually acquitted on charges of corruption and abuse of office. “It appears that President Michael Sata does not have a plan to govern and does not like anyone challenging him. So he has reverted to clamping down,” said Mr Mumba, leader of the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy party. A government investigating team said Mr Banda had been told to hand himself over on Monday: “I can confirm the former president has been summoned to appear before us for questioning on Monday,” said spokeswoman Namukolo Kasumpa. Mr Banda’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, on Saturday accused Mr Sata’s government of launching a “witch-hunt” against Mr Banda, who ruled the country from 2008 to 2011. Mr Banda was swept from office in 2011 by Mr Sata, whose government has launched several high-profile probes into deals struck by the former administration. The government has already won convictions against a few Banda officials and has been investigating suspected shortfalls in tax collection revenues from copper. Last month, Mr Banda, who then enjoyed immunity from prosecution, refused to appear before a team of investigators which had summoned him for questioning. Mr Mumba and fellow opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema are under investigation for financial impropriety. Mr Banda, Mr Mumba and others in the opposition and civil society want the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to investigate Zambia and stem a decline in democratic governance and respect for human rights