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Zambian politician accuses president of smuggling

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A Zambian politician has accused the country’s president, Edgar Lungu, of smuggling money and drugs on a return trip from a state visit to Israel in 2017. However, Israel’s ambassador to the country, Gershon Kedar, said that he “vigorously and officially denies such malicious and false allegations”. The ambassador is also the Israeli envoy to Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
by TALI FEINBERG | Sep 26, 2019

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report from Israel, ambassador Kedar said that it was “important to take a stand and set the record straight” when Israel is mentioned in Zambian politics. However, he pointed out that the allegations weren’t anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli.

“Israel and Zambia have an incredible friendship on all levels. I’ve never come across a Zambian person who is anti-Israeli. A few months ago, a Friends of Israel group was established, and it has members from all political parties. Historically there is no anti-Semitism, and the country used to have a large Jewish community.”

Ambassador Kedar said that Israel had assisted Zambia after independence and continued to support the country to this day, especially in agriculture, social development, healthcare, water, and high tech. In fact, DefenceWeb reported in March 2019 that “Zambia has taken delivery of a new Gulfstream G650 VIP jet, which arrived from Israel in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on 28 February.” And, on the same day that the Israeli ambassador debunked the allegations, a memorandum of understanding for co-operation was signed between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the ministry of tourism and arts in Zambia.

So, it was an unexpected turn of events when, in a speech two weeks ago, National Democratic Congress party leader Chishimba Kambwili claimed that there were rumours of money smuggling from Israel, while admitting that he had “no facts” to back up the allegation, reports the Times of Israel.

“I have no facts, but there is an allegation that trunks of money came from Israel on that presidential jet … There are allegations by the people of Zambia and the world over that maybe the presidential trips and plane is now being used to courier drugs,” he said.

Kambwili’s charges included claims that businessman Valden Findlay, who joins the presidential entourage on trips abroad, was a drug dealer wanted in the United States, and had also used the presidential plane to smuggle drugs, a claim that drew a defamation lawsuit from Findlay, according to the Lusaka Times.

Lungu’s visit to Israel in February 2017, accompanied by top cabinet ministers, was described by both governments as a bid to jumpstart long-dormant ties, according to Times of Israel.

Lungu has come in for much criticism since Zambia’s last election, largely over the economy’s instability due to a decline in copper prices. The allegations were made against this unstable background.

Ambassador Kedar said the two countries would move forward. “We will carry on building the relationship between Israel and Zambian civil society, government, and its people. Just recently, two Israeli NGOs [non-governmental organisations] arrived in the country – one to implement solar power for schools, clinics, and infrastructure, and another to work on social development for women and children.”

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