DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito was yesterday ready to start trial in former president Rupiah Banda's abuse of authority of office case relating to a Nigerian oil procurement deal that did not benefit government.
Nchito, the lead prosecutor in the matter, informed Lusaka chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda after the former president pleaded not guilty to one count of abuse of authority of office, that the state was ready to proceed into trial.
However, magistrate Banda said he had another trial.
Later, magistrate Banda, Nchito, the defence team and Banda himself retired into the chambers to set the ground rules in the case.
The matter was then adjourned to April 3, 2013 for commencement of trial.
Banda, whose immunity was recently lifted by the National Assembly, is charged with one count of abuse of authority of office contrary to the Laws of Zambia.
It is alleged that Banda on dates unknown but between May 1, 2008 and September 24, 2011 in Lusaka, being a person employed in the public service as president of Zambia, abused the authority of his office by procuring a Nigerian government-to-government oil contract in the name of the Republic of Zambia, which was meant to benefit him and his family.
The particulars of offence further stated that Banda instructed his son Henry Chikomeni Banda to determine the destination of the funds which were the proceeds of this unbeneficial contract, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the interests of the Republic of Zambia.
75-year-old Banda, who gave his occupation as former president and his address as Villa No.3, Lot 2758 off Leopards Hill Road, Lusaka, said he understood the charge and pleaded not guilty.
Speaking to journalists after his case was adjourned, Banda said that he had confidence in the Judiciary but that it was unprecedented in the country's history that three top opposition leaders (himself, Mumba and Hichilema) appeared at court on the same day.
Banda had apparently stayed behind to follow proceedings in the matter where Hichilema is facing a charge of publication of false news with intent to alarm the public.
Also in the same court was MMD leader Nevers Mumba who is charged with failure to comply with applicable procedure relating to management of public funds and three counts of abuse of authority of office whilst he was Zambia's High Commissioner to Canada.
Banda, who told journalists that they would have a lot to write about the trial, then escorted Hichilema and Mumba to their motor vehicles before proceeding to the other side of the court complex where Thandiwe was waiting for him in the company of Florence, Mumba's wife.
Before getting into his motor vehicle, Banda thanked Florence for being there for her 'young sister' Thandiwe.
Mumba when asked to comment on Banda's assertions said amidst protestations from Florence that he had no comment.