Zambia’s high commissioner toCanadahas rejected allegations, made by his president Michael Sata, of financial impropriety at the Zambian mission under his watch.
Nevers Mumba says that Michael Sata’s comments are a “politically-motivated attack,” and he is now considering legal action against the government he is still currently serving.
Along with being his nation’s chief representative in Canada—until his announced departure in December—he is also the president of the Ottawa Diplomatic Association, an umbrella group representing the diplomatic community in Ottawa.
A Nov. 16 report published by the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, a state-owned TV station and website, voiced Mr. Sata’s feelings with the following statement: “The president is concerned that information obtained so far suggests serious financial impropriety at the mission inToronto, which is under the supervision of Dr Nevers Mumba.”
“The president hopes that Dr Mumba’s impending visit toZambiawill provide law enforcement agencies an opportunity to engage him on the financial matters at the mission he supervised as high commissioner until his recent recall.”
Zambiaonly has an official high commission office inOttawa, notToronto, so that statement has been the subject of confusion, with prominent members of the Zambian-Canadian diaspora as well as Mr. Mumba himself stating that it hurts the credibility of Mr. Sata’s accusations.
The country did have a consulate inTorontoprior to 2008, but it was closed, confirmed a spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Mr. Mumba was officially accredited inCanadaon Sept.16, 2009.
The spokesperson stated in an email that “it would be inappropriate to comment at this time” on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Mumba.
Amos Chanda, a spokesperson for Mr. Sata, said in a telephone interview fromZambiathat his office “made a mistake” on the location of the mission. But he said “multiple sources inCanadawould have made the allegations” of financial irregularity.
He could not provide additional details of the sources in question or of the claims themselves.
The high commissioner says these accusations are baseless, pointing out that Zambia’s Auditor General had given the mission in Canada a pass as recently as June 2011, and that he “personally signed the preliminary audit report summary” at the time.
“The fact that the statement erroneously stated that there were alleged financial irregularities at our ‘Torontomission’ questions the credibility of the story, as we do not have a mission inTorontounder my supervision,” said Mr. Mumba.
“I am one of the longest-serving pastors inZambiaand a former vice president and my 30-year public service has no content of financial mismanagement of public funds—it didn’t happen then and it will not happen now,” he said.
“Since this has been a deliberate assault on my integrity, I am working with my lawyers to advise me on the course of action to be taken in order to address this politically-motivated attack.”
Prominent members of the Zambian diaspora inCanadashare his line of thinking. Charles Mwewa, president of the Zambian-Canadian Foundation, the largest Zambian community group inCanada, sympathizes with the embattled envoy.
“At this time I believe in President Sata, like most Zambians,” said Mr. Mwewa, who professes no political allegiance to any political party inZambia.
“But inZambia, recently, it seems the new president is driving too fast to keenly observe the traffic rules, and the people ofZambiaare not benefiting from politically-motivated rhetoric so far.”
Mr. Mwewa said that the Zambian mission’s inability to provide assistance to his organization should show how little money was actually available under Mr. Mumba’s leadership, discrediting Mr. Sata’s allegations.
“The guy had absolutely peanuts to work with…since he became high commissioner, he has repeatedly expressed regret that his mission could not help us financially,” he said.
Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, a lawyer who ran for mayor ofTorontoin 1997, says that he is a keen observer ofZambia’s affairs, including the one concerning Mr. Mumba.
He says he was locked up in solitary confinement for 6 months in 1976 for demonstrating against the administration of Kenneth Kaunda, who led the country from 1964 to 1991. Mr. Hamalengwa later fled the country toCanadain 1977.
“This charge has no credibility, and not only because of the ‘Toronto’ charge—doesn’t this president have any advisors?” said Mr. Hamalengwa.
Reports out ofZambiashow a movement backing Mr. Mumba to take over his party’s leadership when he returns. The nomination period for party presidency is ongoing this month.
This has Mr. Hamalengwa wondering whether the Zambian government is seeking to cut the opposition’s firepower.
“Of all the embassy officials posted abroad, Nevers Mumba is the most prominent and is the most credible—it would follow that if the regime is more scared of the opposition it would go after credible opposition members,” he said.
“The new regime will fear him and will want to tarnish his image even before the post of the MMD presidency.”
On the reports of his seeking his party’s presidency, Mr. Mumba was non-committal.
“I will announce my decision whether or not I will be running for the presidency of the party when I arrive inZambiain the next three weeks or so,” he said.
Embassy – Canada’s Foreign Policy Newsweekly