Zambia minister denies graft charges - The East African

Zambia minister denies graft charges

Tuesday February 19 2019

Ronald Chitotela

Zambia’s Housing and Infrastructure minister Ronald Chitotela. He is accused of corruption. FILE | RONALD CHITOTELA 

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Zambia’s Housing and Infrastructure minister Ronald Chitotela Tuesday denied corruption charges when he appeared before the Lusaka Magistrate's Court.

Mr Chitotela and others are accused concealing two properties located in Lusaka’s upmarket Makeni and Ibex Hill, believed to have been bought with the proceeds of crime.

The minister's co-accused are Mr Gregory Chibanga and Mr Diris Mukange and Bruth Holding Limited.

The minister was early this month arrested by the anti-graft commission, but was released on bond pending to be arraigned.

His presence in parliament last Friday incensed the opposition, whose members proceeded to storm out of the debating chamber when he stood to respond to questions.

Presumed innocent

President Edgar Lungu has come under pressure to sack the minister, but he has instead come to Mr Chitotela's defence, saying he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The minister's trial comes at a time former Air Force commander, Lt-General Eric Chimese, was also facing corruption-related charges.

The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) said last Wednesday that Lt-Gen Chimese would be charged jointly with Mr James Chungu, a director of Chita Lodges Limited.

The two are accused of “concealing property, wilfully giving false information, abuse of office and possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime,” DEC’s spokeswoman Theresa Katongo said.

Soft approach

Lt-Gen Chimese, 50, was sacked by President Lungu last year for unknown reasons.

The ex-military boss is accused of concealing ownership of a farm at Ibex Hill on which nine fully-furnished flats, maisonette, a gym, visitors’ quarters, and semi-detached servants’ quarters have been developed.

Lt-Gen Chimese is purported to have claimed the properties belonged to Chita Lodges.

The high profile trials, observers say, were President Lungu's strategy for repairing his government's image that was largely viewed as having a soft approach to graft.

However, critics cast doubt if any top officials could be successfully prosecuted.