17 April 2024 | 08:19 AM

Zambia draws flak for summary expulsions

Key Takeaways

Jan Paxton, 43, managing director of Armcor Security, Zambia’s biggest private security company, is understood to have sought the intervention of the Zambian high commissioner to South Africa, Muyeba Chikonde, and South Africa’s department of international relations and co-operation to prevent his deportation.

Paxton was picked up from his workplace in March and bundled on to a plane by security and immigration officials without notice or explanation. Armcor general manager Michael Musonda said the deportation was instigated by the firm’s competitors.

“Mr Paxton has brought expertise and innovation to this company from the time he came and some people are not happy with that. They are using their political connections to kick out credible people,” he said.

“We hope the government will review and reverse the decision. Armcor is a big company and, if it collapses, many Zambians will suffer.”

The South African had been in Zambia for less than a year when he took over the running of Armcor, which employs more than 6 000 people, with a Zambian, Garry Wadey. Two sources have accused a Zambian citizen, whose name is known to amaBhungane, of instigating the expulsion.

Connected

Contacted this week, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu accused Paxton of “economic subversion”, saying the Zambia Revenue Authority discovered that the South African had been hired to evade tax.

“I was in South Africa recently and the issue of Mr Paxton was discussed. We made it clear why we deported him,” Lungu said.

He described as “bedroom politics” claims that the deportation of Paxton and others was triggered by local businesspeople connected to politicians.

The deportation of foreign businesspeople, in many cases with 12 hours’ notice and without an explanation or charges being levelled, has become a trend since Michael Sata took over as president in 2011.

Two directors who had been running a cement company in Zambia for a decade were deported to Italy in November last year after a dispute with a local partner, who eventually took over the company despite a court injunction. A Nigerian, who was also a chief executive officer for another cement company, was also forced out of Zambia for what Lungu termed “poor behaviour”.

The actions have attracted criticism from civil society organisations and opposition parties, who accuse the Patriotic Front government of flouting the rule of law. The Law Association of Zambia recently lambasted the “habit of maligning personalities and targeting deportations at companies that are not seen to be in ‘tow’ with the ruling PF party”.

“To effect deportations without according the affected persons an opportunity to be heard flies directly in the teeth of natural justice,” the association’s president, James Banda, added.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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