FORMER president Rupiah Banda has asked the MMD leadership to return to his custody of over 300 vehicles that he had placed at the service of MMD during the 2011 general elections campaigns.
When contacted for comment, Banda said he does not want to be dragged into politics.
The demand by Banda has been taken as a blow to completely shutter the Nevers Mumba led MMD, a party that sponsored and supported him in government before he lost to PF’s Michael Sata in 2011.
Banda had put up the most expensive campaign with a massive fleet of vehicles, chitenge materials, bicycles, and was accused of corruption.
After he lost, the PF government impounded close to a hundred motor vehicles on suspicion that they were procured using public money.
All the vehicles, some of which are just shells, are registered in the MMD’s name.
Nevers Mumba, the current MMD president put up a spirited fight to have the party vehicles released and once that was done, Banda is believed to have sponsored the illegal convention in Kabwe that purported to elect Felix Mutati as leader to replace Mumba.
However, the High Court last year declared Mumba the right MMD leader and annulled all decisions that were made at the Kabwe convention.
During Mutati’s time at the MMD secretariat, The Mast has learnt that Banda asked Raphael Nakacinda, who was the faction’s national secretary to handover to him 26 motor vehicles, in accordance with their agreement.
Some of the vehicles were sold to individuals and some were given to a prominent Lusaka lawyer.
But when Mumba won back the MMD legal battle in court in November 2019, party operatives were instructed to track and retrieve all party vehicles.
The operatives found some of the vehicles sold to individuals, among them businessman Valden Findlay.
An insider told The Mast, that MMD national secretary Elizabeth Chitika-Molobeka wrote to Banda telling him that the handover of party vehicles to him was done illegally as there was no party authority for such action.
Chitika-Molobeka requested the former head of state to confirm the vehicles that were released to him for the party’s central organ to make a decision.
However, Banda wrote to MMD asking them to hand over to him all the vehicles he gave MMD in 2011.
“I write to inform you that His Excellency, Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda, Fourth Republican President has directed that in view of the continuing complaints by some of the persons that were recipients and, or custodians of his motor vehicles which are subject of the ongoing correspondence…in spite of his earlier efforts at putting this matter to rest amicably, all motor vehicles that he had placed at the service of the MMD party for the purposes of the 2011 general elections, be returned back [sic] to his custody with immediate effect without exception,” reads a letter seen by The Mast and written by Banda’s deputy administrative secretary Chibeza Mfuni and which was copied to Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja. “It is the expressed wish of His Excellency, President Banda that this retrieval exercise will not be hampered or interfered with by any party. In the meantime, by copy of this letter, the Inspector General of Police is advised to ensure the security and protection of all the property including motor vehicles that were given to other persons by President Banda according to his wish and to the personnel that has been mandated to carry out this task in his behalf.”
Banda’s letter, The Mast has learnt, has unsettled Mumba’s leadership, many of whom are convinced the former party president has been the central figure destabilising the party.
The insiders said Banda had refused to help Mumba source funds to pay to Registrar of Societies at the time the former ruling party was threatened with a deregistration.
“This latest move has confirmed reports we are receiving that he still wants to contest elections. We are being told of increasing graffiti RB2021 in the Woodlands area. This cannot be coincidence,” said source.
When contacted to confirm his demand, Banda said, “No no no, you know something my brother, I left politics a lot time ago, the ones who have told you let them give you the details.”
“They are just dragging me into politics and I don’t want. I don’t want at all anything political within MMD itself or in the country. I want to enjoy my retirement and I will be available to you as an elder statesman, to advise you that if you do this this is what will happen to you because it has happened to me before, so I do not want to comment on that. Let them give you the details, thank a lot my brother,” said Banda.
On the other hand, Chitika-Molobeka said, “Thank you very much Speedwell for the inquiry. We have a lot of respect for our former president, His Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda. He was our president of the party and president of the republic, and for some of us we had a relationship with the former president, so we have a lot of respect.”
“However, I can confirm that on the 14th of May 2020 we received a letter from the former president’s office. This letter was signed by Mr Chibeza Mfune, who is the deputy administrative assistant to the former president and in his letter he informed us that the former president would like to have all the motor vehicles that he had placed at the service of the MMD for the purposes of the 2011 general elections and that these vehicles should be returned to his custody with immediate effect without exception,” she said. “It’s true we have received this letter. If you want to confirm, you can pass through our secretariat and look at the letter. For now, that’s all I can say. If there is anything else, the party will make a decision.”
Another source hoped what Banda said, that he does not want politics and wants to enjoy his retirement, was true.
The source said Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa, all purchased or sourced vehicles for the party and none ever returned to ask for them like Banda was doing.