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Zambia court adjourns ex-minister graft case that prompted aid freeze

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LUSAKA (Reuters) – A Zambian court on Tuesday adjourned until September the start of corruption trial involving a former cabinet minister that prompted some western donors to freeze aid to the southern African nation.

Britain, Finland, Ireland and Sweden withheld nearly $34 million in aid to Zambia’s social welfare and education sectors in September last year because of concern over financial mismanagement.

The case is a test on how President Edgar Lungu is addressing corruption in a government that is struggling with slow economic growth, high debt and shrinking foreign currency reserves.

Following the aid freeze, Lungu fired Community Development and Social Welfare Minister Emerine Kabanshi, who was in charge of the funds.

Kabanshi was later charged with failure to follow procedure and guidelines relating to the engagement of a government-owned company, which distributed the funding. Kabanshi, who denies any wrongdoing, was not in court on Tuesday.

Preliminary investigations showed that Zambia Postal Services Corp, the company engaged by the government to distribute the money, had used part of it to pay its retirees and refurbish offices.

The dates for the trial are Sept. 17 to 20, magistrate Lameck Mwale said.

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