IN THE early hours of 28 October 1997, barely four days after Zambia’s 33rd independence celebrations, gunfire was heard outside the ZNBC studios, State House and Army Commander’s residence.
About 50 soldiers on Armored Personnel Carriers and trucks led by Captain Solo broke into an armed depot, assaulted army officers and then proceeded to seize state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) studios.
At about 4am, another group of about 30 soldiers on Armored Personnel Carriers and trucks led by Captain Jack Chiti arrived at the Zambia Army Commander’s residence. The soldiers over powered the 10 sentries posted at the Army Commander’s residence. Captain Jack Chiti managed to capture the army commmader and his family.
During a moment of confusion, the army commmader jumped the parameter wall fence leaving his family behind and disappeared into the darkness. It was later learnt that the army commmader had dashed to the residence of the Zambia Security Intelligence Service Director General Xavier Chungu. Mr. Chungu had already started gathering information on what was happening in the early hours. Chungu also secured President Chiluba and the first family to a safe house. Having failed to locate where the army commmader had gone, Captain Jack Chiti and his troops left for the then Lusaka International Airport.
Meanwhile, Captain Steven Lungu a.k.a Captain Solo and announced on ZNBC radio that a coup d’état had taken place in Zambia. Captain Lungu dismissed the chiefs of the army and police and announced that he was forming a new Government of National Redemption. He gave President Chiluba an ultimatum of three hours to surrender or face death.
At about 7 am four Zambia Airforce Helicopters were sent to Ndola to pick loyal soldiers at 1 Commando Battalion (Special Forces) in Ndola. By 9am, the Special forces arrived at ZNBC studios and Captain Solo together with 54 others were arrested by the special forces barely after three hours of ‘’taking over’’ and an official announcement by a Colonel commander of the Special Forces was broadcast to announce that the coup has been quelled.
In 2003 under the leadership of the late President Levy Mwanawasa, the long awaited trial was over. During their trial, the two main coup leaders, Captain Stephen Lungu and Captain Jack Chiti, admitted recruiting colleagues for the power grab. A total of 58 soldiers were convicted of treason and sentenced to hang in September 1999 for their role in a failed takeover on October 28, 1997.
A 59th officer, Major Musonda Kangwa, was sentenced to 21 years in jail for knowing in advance about the coup plans but failing to inform his superiors.
Captain Jack Chiti received a presidential pardon from late President Levy Mwanawasa but he died in 2004 after a long struggle with cancer.
Captain Solo also received a presidential pardon after serving 13 years imprisonment by the then third Republican President Rupiah Banda on 28 December 2010. However, he died on 11 August 2012, aged 50, at Kanyama Clinic, in Lusaka after a long battle with tuberculosis (TB) which had deteriorated his health since his release from prison.