Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

Zambia: The coup d'etat attempt of 28 October 1997; whether Dr. Rajan Mahatani was accused of or arrested or detained for involvement in the attempt; current whereabouts of Rajan Mahatini

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 7 December 1999
Citation / Document Symbol ZMB33362.E
Reference 4
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Zambia: The coup d'etat attempt of 28 October 1997; whether Dr. Rajan Mahatani was accused of or arrested or detained for involvement in the attempt; current whereabouts of Rajan Mahatini, 7 December 1999, ZMB33362.E, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Rajan Mahtani was arrested on 3 June 1998 and charged with treason on 8 June 1998 in connection with an attempted coup d'etat on 28 October 1997 (The Post 9 June 1998; ibid. 10 June 1998). According to reports in The Post, Mahtani had been removed as chairman and chief executive of the Finance Bank earlier in the year, and had more recently been forced to resign as chairman of Zambian Express Airways (The Post 9 June 1998; ibid. 22 Apr. 1998).

The statement of offence against Mahtani alleged that:

between October 1, last year and on an unknown date, he whilst acting with other persons unknown did prepare to overthrow the government of the Republic of Zambia by unlawful means. 

… in the one overt act, that Mahtani between July 1, 1995 and October 28 last year in Lusaka jointly and whilst acting together with others unknown conspired to overthrow by unlawful means the government of the Republic of Zambia (ibid. 10 June 1998).

Among others charged with treason around the same time was Princess Nakatindi Wina, who reportedly testified at Mahtani's writ of habeas corpus application hearing that "all the monies that I am alleged to have received from former Finance Bank executive Rajan Mahtani were specifically meant for business and not for the purpose of overthrowing the government" (ibid. 3 July 1998).

After being jailed for six weeks, Mahtani was released by a Lusaka High Court judge on 15 July 1999 after the state entered a nolle prosequi (ibid. 16 July 1998). Several other people arrested in connection with the coup attempt were also released on nolle prosequi (ibid. 21 Apr. 1999).

At the time of the coup attempt, reports stated that the revolt was lead by Captain Steven Lungo, who announced the overthrow of the Chiluba government on state radio (DPA 28 Oct. 1997). A government military spokesman announced later that morning on the radio that the "government was back in charge and the coup plotters were being 'dealt with'"(ibid.).

On 17 September 1999 it was reported that the High Court in Lusaka had sentenced 59 of the 68 soldiers charged with treason to death following their convictions for plotting to overthrown the government on 28 October 1997 (PANA 17 Sept. 1999).

The current whereabouts of Rajan Mahtani could not be established by the Research Directorate among the sources consulted. However, several reports state that Mahtani was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a serious skin disease thought to be contracted during his six weeks in Lusaka Central Prison (Chimbokaila) (The Post 20 Oct. 1998; ibid. 6 Nov. 1998). According to one report, Mahtani left Zambia for England one week after his release in July 1998 (ibid. 20 Oct. 1998). He was being treated in England for tuberculosis in the fall of 1998 (ibid.). He returned briefly to Zambia in October (ibid.). In November it was reported that after going back to England he had been hospitalized for treatment for tuberculosis (ibid. 6 Nov. 1998). A report from August 1999 also stated he was being treated in England for the disease (ibid. 25 Aug. 1999).

The most recent report concerning Mahtani stated that he was being sued by the law firm in Zambia that had represented him during the time he was charged with treason (ibid. 23 Sept. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 28 October 1997a. "Zambian President Says Military Coup has Been Put Down." (NEXIS)

_____. 28 October 1997b. "Pro-Chiluba Troops Crush Zambian Coup Attempt." (NEXIS)

Panafrican News Agency (PANA). 17 September 1999. Musengwa Kayaya. "59 Soldiers Sentenced to Death for Treason."(Africa News/NEXIS)

The Post [Lusaka]. 23 September 1999. Amos Malupenga. "Simezasues Mahtani over K100m Legal Fees." < > [Accessed 2 Dec. 1999]

_____. 25 August 1999. Lawrence Nyambe. "Political Watch: Trail of Destruction." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 21 April 1999. Amos Malupenga. "Mung'omba Challenges 'Nolle' in Supreme Court." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 6 November 1998. Amos Malupenga. "Mahtani Still in Hospital." < > [Accessed 2 Dec. 1999]

_____. 20 October 1998. Amos Malupenga. "Mahtani has TB." < > [Accessed 2 Dec. 1999]

_____. 16 July 1999. Reuben Phiri. "Exercise Humility." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____.3 July 1998. Amos Malupenga. "Nakatindi Explains her Deals with Mahtani." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 10 June 1998. Amos Malupenga. "Malambo, Mwanawasa discuss Mahtani's Arrest." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 9 June 1998. Mukalya Nampito and Reuben Phiri. "Mahtani Reveals Chiluba's Financial Dealings with Winas." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 22 April 1998. "Kavindele Replaces Mahtani at Zamex." < > [Accessed 2 Dec. 1999]

Additional Sources Consulted

Amnesty International Report 1999 and 1998

Human Rights Watch reports 1998-1999

IRB databases

Search engines including:





Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld