FORMER president Rupiah Banda yesterday sneaked into the South African High Commission for a private meeting with that country's High Commissioner to Zambia Kgoshi Piet Mathebe.
A check at the High Commission located along Cheetah road in Lusaka's Kabulonga area found employees vacating the offices with a notice on the gate saying the consulate would be closed at 10:00 hours in the morning.
The South African high commission is normally open for business between 08:30 in the morning to 12:00 from Monday to Friday.
Security officers, however, sealed off the premises at 09:45, hours and were not allowing any visitors to the high commission.
"The 'Embassy' is closed. There is nobody inside, everyone has left and so you cannot be allowed (to come in)," said a security officer who was manning the gate.
When asked why the consulate was closed earlier than the indicated 10:00 hours, the officer said they had been given instructions not to allow people inside the premises including those for visa inquiries.
At exactly 10:28, Banda arrived in a tinted silver Toyota Land Cruiser V8 without a number plate and the security guard saluted for the people on board before directing the vehicle in.
When asked why they were not allowing anyone else to go inside the yard yet the stated vehicle was welcomed, the security officer confirmed that the man in the vehicle was former president Rupiah Banda and that he had a private meeting with the high commissioner.
"That is a private meeting that he (High ommissioner Mathebe) had with him (Banda)," said the officer.
Asked if it was possible to find out who else was attending the meeting, the officer said the entire building had been cleared apart from the people in that meeting and that they were not allowed to go anywhere near the office where the meeting was taking place.
The security officers later turned on this reporter and instructed him to leave the premises and park his vehicle at a distance, away from the high commission.
At precisely 12:15, Banda's vehicle was seen leaving the premises.
And sources said Banda went to meet Mathebe to discuss issues relating to the lifting of his immunity and his subsequent arrest.
The sources said Banda had been seeking sympathy from various diplomats accredited to Zambia by claiming that the Patriotic Front government was persecuting him.
Another source however said Banda was suspected to have been at the consulate for a telephone conversation with South African President Jacob Zuma.
Efforts to get a comment from Banda's principal private secretary Mikatazo Wakumelo proved futile as his phone which rung once at 15:45 went unanswered and was later unreachable.
All landlines for the High Commission went unanswered and the High Commissioner's mobile phone was unreachable.
Foreign affairs deputy minister Gabriel Namulambe said he did not have details of the meeting that was held for Banda at the South African High Commission because he was in Mpongwe thanking his voters.
Namulambe said he asked the Permanent Secretary (Margaret Miyoba) to get the details of the meeting but that she had also failed to get in touch with High Commissioner Mathebe as his phone was unreachable.
"I am told all numbers including cell phones are not being answered, so I can't tell you anything about that meeting," Namulambe said.
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