The NHEF Empowerment Fund entered the real estate arena with lofty pledges of spearheading infrastructure and housing development in Zambia. However, its reputation took a nosedive when it became entangled with the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), casting doubt on its legitimacy and sparking allegations of operating a fraudulent scheme.

The heartfelt plea penned by Kamphembele Ngulube, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, to President Hakainde Hichilema in January 2024 on the company’s Facebook page, urging intervention in their situation with DEC, sum up the downfall of the housing scheme.

Ngulube expressed deep concern over the prolonged delay, stating, "It's been two years now and no court date. The National Prosecution Authority of Zambia, please assist us. We are a registered Zambian company, and it's been two years since ALL our bank accounts have been frozen by DEC".

In the comment section, one of the customers who had deposited his money into this scheme in the hope of acquiring land expressed concern, wondering, "Once your accounts are released, will you refund us at all? Remember, it's our money".

MakanDay Centre for Investigative Journalism has uncovered a recurring pattern in NHEF's land dealings, potentially drawing scrutiny from the DEC. Our analysis exposes instances where land purchase agreements between NHEF and landowners failed to materialise due to NHEF's consistent failure to meet its payment obligations on time.

The Arrest

On November 2, 2022, the DEC anti-money laundering investigations unit arrested three directors of NHEF on charges related to the laundering of 36 million Kwacha.

Then DEC's Public Relations Officer, Hussein Khan, confirmed the arrest of Ngulube, Margaret Mabingo, and Lusuntha Ngulube who are also shareholders of the company.

They were charged with the offence of obtaining money by false pretenses, as stipulated in Section 309 of the Penal Code Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. Additionally, they faced charges of money laundering under Section 7 of the Prohibition and Prevention of the Money Laundering Act No. 14 of 2001.

DEC reported that between January 1, 2020, and September 30, 2022, the three individuals, in collusion with others whose identities remain unknown, orchestrated a scheme to defraud members of the public.

They falsely claimed that NHEF was selling plots in an area named "Riverdale City," located in Lusaka’s Leopards Hill area, despite no such plots being available. This resulted in them obtaining K36 million from unsuspecting individuals.

“And in the course of investigations, the Commission seized 18 motor vehicles and froze several bank accounts. The suspects are on bond and will appear in court soon,” said Khan.

The Web We Have Untangled

MakanDay's investigation into NHEF's land dealings revealed that the company had entered into separate agreements with landowners Yousuf Essa on one hand, and Brando Miyanda on the other. However, both agreements failed to materialise.

When contacted for comment by phone, Essa declined the offer, stating, "I don't do interviews," before ending the call.

However, the dispute with Miyanda was settled in the High Court.

According to court documents obtained by MakanDay, Miyanda,owner of two properties known as subdivisions B and G of farm 9819 in Lusaka, entered into a contract with NHEF for the sale of a 3.5-hectare portion of subdivision G of Farm 9819, also known as Emerald Park along Leopards Hill Road in Chongwe. The agreed price was two million kwacha. Additionally, the defendant- NHEF agreed to construct 10 housing units for Miyanda as part of the contract.


Furthermore, in addition to the contract for the sale of 3.5 hectares of subdivision G, Miyanda also signed a separate contract prepared by Messrs. Mweemba and Company. This contract, facilitated by Ngulube, the director of NHEF, involved the sale of 72 hectares of subdivision B at an agreed price of over K71 million (K71,166,400.00).

Miyanda explained that NHEF had not paid any money against the agreed price for subdivision B, stating that he had only received small and erratic payments amounting to less than K200,000 against the K2 million relating to the 3.5 hectares of subdivision G.

He further stated that NHEF engaged in deceptive and evasive behaviour by making small payments, not exceeding K20,000 at a time. Additionally, the company ran sales promotions for land sales, mortgage financing, and house construction on parcels of land, including subdivisions B and G of his farm 9819, despite failing to fulfill all its financial obligations.

On July 9, 2020, High Court Judge Elita Phiri Mwikisa issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the defendant (NHEF), its servants, or agents from occupying, conducting any works, selling, advertising for sale, or otherwise dealing with subdivision B and G of Farm 9818 until the resolution of the matter.

Then on July 24, 2020, a consent judgment was passed by the High Court, which cancelled all agreements entered between Ngulube’s NHEF and Miyanda.

Facebook Buzz

Between December of last year and early January of 2024, NHEF's Facebook page exhibited notable activity, indicating the management's engagement in relocating their clients to Ridgehill Estate, another property in Chongwe district. However, according to the owner of farm, Mercy Saiwana, NHEF failed to meet its payment obligations for this relocation and was consequently granted only 10 hectares of land.

“We initially intended for NHEF to purchase our farm, but they failed to fulfill the agreed-upon payment, leading us to cancel the contract. We allocated 10 hectares equivalent to their payment, and they relocated their clients to this designated area,” she explained.

She further clarified that her land was state land acquired many years ago.

Ngulube Stays Silent

MakanDay reached out for an interview with Ngulube, the director of NHEF. However, he declined the interview, citing ongoing legal proceedings pertaining to the matter.

“Unfortunately, at this point we are yet to go to court and DEC has taken almost two years and they have not taken the matter to court. Our lawyers have advised that we don't make any comments until the matter is disposed of by the courts,” Ngulube said. 
Response from DEC and National Prosecution Authority

When asked about the status of the investigation, DEC responded through its public relations office, confirming that the Commission had completed its investigation and passed the case to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) for further action.

“As DEC, we did our part and the docket was submitted to the National Prosecution Authority for perusal and possible prosecution,” Khan said.

 NPA Public Relations Officer Chali Hambayi informed MakanDay that the matter was currently under review.

The Chief’s Perspective

MakanDay additionally reached out to Senior Headman Regis Nkomeshya of Chieftainess Nkomeshya's Chiefdom, representing the Soli people in Chongwe district, to gain insight into Siawana Farm located in Nakatindi Ward near Mikango Barracks.

During the interview, the headman expressed a lack of awareness regarding recent developments or activities occurring at the farm. This response came after MakanDay presented him and his associate with documentation, including photocopies of the land title and agreement forms for prospective clients interested in the property.

The headman suspected that the title was illegal because Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II has not issued a consent letter to anyone to acquire land in that catchment area.

“When I look at this title, it was issued in 2017. This is a clear indication that it is illegal. We will carry out our own investigations, and we will be in touch,” he said.

When the MakanDay journalist attempted to follow up on the matter a week later, she was accused of purchasing land from Saiwana, stating that the royal establishment has never complained about the said land to anyone and wondered why the journalist was interested in this land.

Facebook Buzz

Last year, under mounting pressure from clients, NHEF chose to communicate through its Facebook page, reassuring those who were not allocated land at Emerald Park that they would be provided with alternative land in Mikango, particularly at a new site called Ridgehill Estate. However, NHEF's attempt to purchase the land for this purpose was unsuccessful, and the contract between Siawana Farms and NHEF was subsequently terminated.

Siawana, the proprietor of Siawana Farms, clarified that the proposed relocation site planned by NHEF for clients who were not allocated plots at Emerald Park is not in collaboration with NHEF. Furthermore, Siawana stated that NHEF failed to complete the purchase of the farm. 

Clients’ Testimonies

MakanDay interviewed several clients of NHEF who shared their experiences.

One individual, attracted by NHEF's enticing five-year payment plan, found the initial evaluation process legitimate. However, after applying for a plot at Emerald Park Villas Estate in Chongwe, he was informed the park was full, with DEC later citing the company's involvement in money laundering.

NHEF then notified clients about possible relocation, offering either monetary compensation or reallocation.

Another client recounted purchasing a plot in 2020 with an attractive payment plan, only to later hear rumours of NHEF's involvement in a scam. She was given the option of a refund or relocation but has yet to receive either.

Both clients expressed dissatisfaction with NHEF's lack of progress and communication, highlighting instances of unfulfilled promises and unavailability during scheduled meetings.

“Last week, I received a call for a site visit, scheduled to meet at their (NHEF) office on a Saturday at Unit 51, NAPSA Complex. However, upon my arrival around 09:00 hours, the agreed time, I found the office locked. The lady who called me had her phone switched off, and even the alternative line went unanswered,'" recounted one of the clients."

Photo Credit: NHEF Empowerment Fund Facebook Page