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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Zambia ex first lady to get state aid
Zambia's former first lady, Vera Chiluba
Vera Chiluba says she sometimes goes without food
The Zambian Government has offered financial assistance to the former first lady, Vera Chiluba, after she advertised an auction of all her belongings.


It's been so difficult for me. Sometimes I sleep without eating food

Vera Chiluba
Speaking to the BBC, the ex-wife of former President Frederick Chiluba said she was in desperate need of money since her divorce.

The government said that despite the private nature of her circumstances, the former first lady was entitled to state benefits and asked Mrs Chiluba to stop the auction.

Mrs Chiluba is suing her former husband for more than $2.5bn - equivalent to more than three-quarters of the country's Gross Domestic Product - as part of a divorce settlement.

Hard times

Local newspapers have been running reports saying Mrs Chiluba was living in poverty after her former husband allegedly froze her bank accounts.

Frederick Chiluba faces a settlement case in court
Frederick Chiluba faces a settlement case in court

She told the BBC she had decided to sell her belongings because "she had no alternative and wanted just to support herself".

"It's been so difficult for me. Sometimes I sleep without eating food. Sometimes it's only people out there who come to my aid."

Mrs Chiluba said she wanted to sell everything she had in her house, including furniture, dresses, handbags and shoes she had bought around the world while being Zambia's first lady.

"I am a woman after all. There are so many things I need as a woman: I can't even afford a bottle of perfume."

But Mrs Chiluba, whose marriage with the former president was annulled last year, admitted she still loved her husband, with whom she had nine children.

"I love my husband - he's the father of my children. And I've been married to him for 33 years."

Claims

In addition to the money as part of the divorce settlement, Mrs Chiluba is claiming a share of the couple's concrete assets, which she says include six houses and a farm.

She is also demanding that Mr Chiluba hand over 400 cows, sheep and goats.

Vera Chiluba says her former husband can afford such a settlement and that she can prove it.

Mr Chiluba left office last December, after failing to muster enough support to contest an unconstitutional third term as head of state, and the couple's dispute is due to come to court in early June.

See also:

27 Mar 02 | Africa
Zambia's most expensive divorce
22 Mar 02 | Africa
Chiluba resigns as party leader
04 Mar 02 | Africa
Chiluba loses retirement benefits
07 Jan 02 | Africa
Familiar look to Zambian cabinet
25 Sep 01 | Africa
Divorce for Zambia's first couple
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