After Kabimba, Mahtani Could Be Next to Fall
Following the sudden ouster of Justice Minister and Patriotic Front Secretary General Wynter Kabimba yesterday, the prominent banker Rajan Mahtani may become the next target to fall, a source tells Zambia Reports.
Since Kabimba was fired by President Michel Sata – a widely popular move that has been interpreted as a victory for Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda – the controversial Finance Bank Chairman Mahtani has been desperately trying to distance himself from the cartel, and “switch sides” much in the same way way Guy Scott has attempted, the source says.
“Mahtani’s telling everyone he renounces the cartel, but they don’t believe him,” said the source. “Both President Sata and the Honourable Minister Chikwanda are upset with Fred M’membe, Mutembo Nchito, and Rajan Mahtani for what they have done. They will not forget so easily.”
Shortly before Kabimba’s firing, Chikwanda made numerous aggressive statements to the media, for the first time acknowledging the existence of the cartel, and even pointing to the unpaid debt of K14 billion owed by the former owners of Zambia Airways as a driving factor behind their question for power.
The succession dispute that led to Kabimba’s ouster this week began when President Sata departed for Israel for medical treatment and Kabimba illegally claimed to become Acting President without any official signature or appointment by the president. Once Sata returned home, he refused any meetings with Kabimba, while Chikwanda went to him to report that Kabimba and his colleagues were “wishing him dead” and attempting to steal control of the during his absence, the source said.
Once it became clear that Chikwanda was the preferred successor to President Sata, the source says, Kabimba’s team moved aggressively to attack Chikwanda and damage the reputation of the PF government by releasing leaks in the Post Newspaper concerning corruption VAT refunds given to mines.
“M’membe is absolutely terrified right now,” the source tells Zambia Reports. “He has repeatedly tried to call the president but has failed to be received.”
Indeed, in today’s post coverage of the most important political decision of the year, the newspaper is only running a short article quoting the statement.
In the attack that took place against Chikwanda and other Bemba-speaking members of the PF, Rajan Mahtani has played a key role.
The source says that former Church of God Overseer Bishop John Mambo was paid by Mahtani to be the attack dog to go after Chikwanda, and gave several key interviews to state media and online media condemning Chikwanda and demanding his resignation. Mahtani’s goal was to use Bishop Mambo to force Chikwanda out.
“At the same time that Mahtani was paying Bishop Mambo to humiliate Chikwanda, he also pretended to castigate him,” the source said. “But if that was the case, why wasn’t Bishop Mambo simply fired from his job at Zambezi Portland Cement? Nobody is buying Mahtani’s attempt to dribble here.”
After being gifted the ZPC job on the board of directors by Mahtani, the source says that Bishop Mambo stopped attending meetings organised by the Grand Coalition on the enactment of the new constitution because he does not want to offend his new master.
“The Bishop has even stopped attending meetings on the new constitution. When is the last time you heard him talk about the constitution and yet he is one of those people who were battered by Patriotic Front cadres at the Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA) church in Matero. He has completely switched off. He is chewing big,” the source said.
Mahtani’s role as the financial mastermind the cartel dates back to the beginning, when he first advised Kabimba on the formation of a company to negotiate oil deals on behalf of the Zambian government. In December 2012 the UK newspaper the Guardian reported on a corruption investigation instigated into Kabimba’s company, Midland Energy, which allegedly benefited from a $500 million oil contract obtained by Trafigura.
“Mahtani is desperate to curry favour with Chikwanda and the Bembas, but it is far too late,” the source said. “They know that he cannot be trusted, and that it is only a matter of time until he tries another trick or even starts funding the opposition.”