Elias Chipimo: Parallel Universe Series No. 3 – Tolerating Corruption




The third instalment in our Parallel Universe Series focuses on corruption. We remind everyone that our intention is not primarily to demonstrate that the PF have failed to live up to their campaign and governance promises but to refocus them of their obligations and responsibilities to the Zambian people in the face of severe hardships being experienced by the majority. Our mission is not to see the PF fail while in office because if they do, it is the ordinary Zambians who will suffer. Our mission is to offer alternative ideas to ineffective governance. At the end of the day, we need the current political leadership to focus more on development than politics. We want, through this series, to remind the people of Zambia that NAREP offers hope for a brighter future and that we can and must change the style of our national politics if we are to ever address the daily struggles of the Zambian people.

What is corruption and why does it need to be seriously tackled?

Corruption is a cancer on our society. Just like cancer, it starts off small and when you try and control it, it has a way of becoming aggressive and fighting back. When the body is invaded by cancer cells, the aim is to take control of the body until it is finally destroyed. But what exactly is corruption and why is it bad for Zambia? One way to explain corruption and its effect on our development is with a simple illustration. Let us say that money is allocated to the Ministry of Health to fix our badly damaged healthcare system. Let us then say that the person in charge of handling these funds diverts the money (through dubious procurement contracts) and uses it to purchase luxury goods and properties instead of buying medicines or supplying and fixing emergency medical equipment. A pregnant mother in a rural or peri-urban community arrives at the clinic and finds that the emergency equipment that could save her unborn child’s life has broken down and has never been fixed because of lack of funds. The mother loses her child and is in danger of losing her own life.

In the above example, we can see how corruption can be a killer. Funds meant for public use have been siphoned away under questionable procurements and contributed to the loss of innocent life. But that is not all. Corruption also saps away our morality. It eats into the very fabric of our declaration as a Christian nation. When, for example, a human resource officer promises a job to a vulnerable job-seekers in exchange for sexual favours, that is corruption. When a school teacher abuses his or her position to obtain money by selling examination papers, that is corruption. When a leader protects a political ally or a financial supporter from facing justice, that it corruption. The problem is not so much that these things are happening but it is the scale on which they are happening. Rape, defilement, teenage abortions and sexual favours for jobs are now so commonplace that they seem normal.

When a leader protects a political ally or a financial supporter from facing justice, that it corruption.

So if we have to define it, we can say that corruption is the bending or breaking of laws, rules and regulations or the refusal to comply with established procedure in both public and private matters for the sake of financial or non-financial gain. And let us not fool ourselves, corruption is taking place at every level of society, not just in our politics. Many engage in it because they feel they have no choice when the systems for applying for basic requirements like a registration card, an examination certificate or a passport, are riddled with undue bureaucracy.

Many engage in it because they feel they have no choice when the systems for applying for basic requirements like a registration card, an examination certificate or a passport, are riddled with undue bureaucracy.

But many more are doing it because they see it as a fast track to success in a country where the Government has failed to provide solutions that can deliver basic needs like clean water, decent education, quality healthcare, durable road infrastructure and sustainable employment. So we have to ask the question: what is the PF administration doing about corruption, given that this was a major concern that they raised during and after the 2011 election?

The PF pledge to deal with corruption

In answering this question, let us start with the very words of the Republican President in his opening address to Parliament on 14 October 2011 where there was an undertaking to “ fight corruption in all its forms with commitment and vigour”. Mr. Sata stated that the Patriotic Front Government wanted to put more money in the pockets of many Zambians instead of promoting corruption, which puts more money into pockets of a few individuals. In the President’s own words, “corruption is a platform on which the PF campaigned and were elected”. He undertook to amend the Anti-Corruption Commission Act in order to introduce much stiffer penalties for corruption offenses, re-instate the abuse of office clause, and increase the budgetary allocation to the Anti-Corruption Commission. He also undertook to domesticate international protocols on the fight against corruption and to deal harshly and decisively with any form of corruption:

“I am sounding a timely warning that my government has taken a zero-tolerance stance against corruption in both the public and private sectors……We will investigate any past acts of corruption by all those responsible and prosecute culprits within the due process of the law. Our country needs a new beginning which gives hope to our people, that those who are entrusted with public office shall use the offices to serve, and not to steal from the people who elected them for such service.”

Fine sounding words. But what do they really mean? 17 months down the line, what have the PF actually done since their famous election? They have indeed made an attempt at stiffening the law on abuse of office but it does not have even half the bite that the repealed law had. The old law required a public official to provide an explanation for any property that could not be justified as having been acquired from that official’s salary or benefits. If there was no explanation, the court could determine the guilt of the person on that basis alone. The MMD repealed this provision before they left office, no doubt knowing that they would face difficult questions in explaining how ministers and officials had acquired wealth that was far beyond the reach of their incomes.

When you carefully scrutinise the President’s 2011 parliamentary address, one thing become clear: he wants to deal with past corruption but makes no commitment towards dealing with present or future corruption. This is a mistake.

When you carefully scrutinise the President’s 2011 parliamentary address, one thing become clear: he wants to deal with past corruption but makes no commitment towards dealing with present or future corruption. This is a mistake. The PF must seek a solution that addresses corruption in all its forms whether past or present and to curb its occurrence in the future. NAREP’s plans on corruption will go a long way towards dealing with past, current and future corruption. We believe the way forward will lie in putting in place an independent body that will have powers to do things none of the previous commissions of inquiry have been able to do to date.

The NAREP proposals on dealing with corruption

We must remember that the easy and most tempting thing to do for any new administration that is confronted by massive historical corruption is to target members of the previous administration. This, however, is not a sustainable way forward. NAREP has set out a practical proposal: establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Corruption (TRCC). This would be done through an act of parliament and would therefore require cross-party support and if done well, would produce a more effective outcome than the present efforts by the PF administration, which can best be described as lacklustre and selective.

NAREP has set out a practical proposal: establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Corruption (TRCC).

How would the TRCC work? First, the TRCC would be one commission – the mother of all commissions – rather than the numerous and seemingly endless stream of commissions that have been established by the PF administration. Second, the TRCC would conduct public hearings to enable the whole country to get involved in exposing the many acts of corruption including ones that ordinary people are forced to participate in just to get basic services. Third, it would be mandated by Parliament (rather than the President) to look into all areas of corruption. This would achieve two things: (1) it would remove the possibility of selecting PF Party loyalists to investigate the activities of their political opponents (as we saw in the case of Zamtel, ZANACO and Zambia National Building Society) thereby ensuring a measure of objectivity and impartiality; and (2) because the TRCC would be answerable to parliament and would have representatives from civil society, it would introduce a far more transparent way of dealing not only with past corruption but also with corruption that continues within the structures of the current Government. Fourth, it would have power to grant amnesty to persons willing to own up to past misdeeds as long as they are able to provide information about how the corruption happened and who else benefited. This would in turn provide crucial information to law enforcement officials who would then be able to follow where the money ended up and more easily identify the culprits no matter how high up the ladder.

The final and perhaps most enduring role of the TRCC will be to recommend an agenda that can help in discouraging corrupt practices in both government and the private sector. This is not a fight that any government can wage and win alone. It will involve the Churches and civil society. It will require higher standards of what we consider to be morally acceptable behaviour and not the glorification of those whose wealth and prestige is based on ill-gotten gains. It will require a re-emphasis on values like hard work, discipline, and the pursuit of excellence. This will not be easy, given the rate of poverty and poverty-based dependence in Zambia. For that reason, the fight against corruption cannot be divorced from the fight to create opportunities for employment and enterprise accessible to every Zambian. And this is why we need to keep emphasising that the PF must abandon their obsession with politics and replace it with a passion for development.


Corruption in Zambia has become so prevalent and deep-rooted, it now seems very normal. The cost to our country in terms of lives and missed opportunities is enormous. Although there is no country in the world that can completely eradicate corruption, steps can be taken to minimise its negative influence on society, especially a society with profound development challenges like ours. Any committed attempt to deal with corruption cannot be based solely on what happened in the past. If the PF is serious about living up to its commitment to root out corruption, it must be prepared to subject its own dealings to the scrutiny of a truly independent entity like NAREP’s proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Corruption.

Elias C. Chipimo
NAREP President
31 January 2013


  1. vote

    Unlike other Political parties such as the MMD and UPND, NAREP seem to be mature and sober minded in their analysis of issues.

    I am yet to come across an article from either MMD or UPND which has this sort of well thought out analysis of an issue at hand.

    Well done!!

    • vote

      You probably have forgotten that MMD and UPND did actually write to Sata and the letters were marked “Private and Confidential”. The UNPRESIDENTIAL responses that came from Sata were wrongly sent to the media and just contained a barrage of unpalatables. How else do you deal with a Helter Skelter Government then? So Chipimo is fully aware that if he writes a Private and Confidential letter straight to State House, it will be mate with a barrage of unpalatables. So he has to keep his letters in the public domain for you and me to make our own judgements.

  2. vote

    “when a leader protects a political ally” just like Sata has protected Fred M’membe from paying what he dully owes the Zambian people (K14billion or Kr14million) that is corruption!

  3. vote

    1 , yes you are 100% correct. Even protecting GBM and Kabimba , that is corruption. We shall sort Mr Sata and remove his immunity and prosecute him based on these grounds. Can’t wait for 2016.

    And no TRCC for all PF criminals.

  4. vote

    It gratifies me, every time I read about progressive ideas from young politicians like Chipimo. Indeed constructive criticism is the bedrock of a mature political society, a disposition that should be encouraged in our political leaders. Criticism should inspire those in leadership if it provides best alternative ways of doing things unlike the usual trend of insults and personal attacks. Am personally inspired by the political maturity of Chipimo. Well done, our political landscape will no longer
    remain the same.

  5. vote

    We now have Clive Chirwa, man of the year, yesterday he scored 290 comments just for a mere lecture on his ZR plans.
    Am tired of commenting for the sake of helping Chipimo’s Thesis.

  6. vote

    I like the theorems advanced by NAREP but is interested in practical solutions other than the TRC being wrongly proffered. The main corrupt ministries in Zambia are Home affairs, Lands, Local Govt and Defense. How can we stop our traffic Police Officers from taking bribes? A practical solution is to introduce tickets and have offenders pay through banks or post offices. No traffic cop should handle money. In the case of the Councils – markets and bus stops generate a lot of money but Councils have no collection mechanism. Introduce electronic ways of ensuring marketeers use the ubiquitous mobile phone; all who register qualify for loans and are levied electronically. Lands Min. should also follow suit – PF is trying with Immigration bank payments but lets give them time.

    • vote

      There are still loopholes:
      1. The person issuing tickets can give the offender an out; pay less here and go.
      2. There is no enforcement mechanism in Zambia to rein in those who don’t pay.
      3. In Zambia votes have a price determined by the level of poverty. Interestingly, politicians know this and capitalize on it.

  7. vote

    the police service is the worst especially now when the no one was a cop! just to renew a lincense, do car fitness or register a new car, u have to toil to the mercies of these criminals! they deliberately worst time so that u pay them to expedite. foolish service!!!!!

  8. vote

    Zambia’s copper resources have not made the country rich. Virtually all Zambia’s copper mines are owned by corporations. In the last ten years, they’ve extracted copper worth $29 billion but Zambia is still ranked one of the twenty poorest countries in the world.

    So why hasn’t copper wealth reduced poverty in Zambia? Once again it comes down to the issue of tax, or in Zambia’s case, tax avoidance and the use of tax havens.

    Tax avoidance by corporations costs poor countries and estimated $160 billion a year, almost double what they receive in international aid. That’s enough to save the lives of 350,000 children aged five or under every year.

    For every $1 given in aid to a poor country, $10 drains out. Vital money that could help a poor country pay for healthcare, schools,…

    • vote

      Mwamba Mutale rallies are NOT the only way to communicate the party message to all Zambian. Therefore what the president of NAREP is doing is that he using all means available to communicate NAREP’s message….time for rallies will come but not now…..besides all that happens at rallies is that you get other party’s vigilant causing all sorts of trouble….NAREP is bringing new politics ——issue based politics.

  9. vote

    Another masterpiece from you Mr Chipimo.Well done and keep up the good work for mother Zambia.Like you rightly put it the aim is not for the PF to fail as then it means we all suffer but to offer solutions.Start thinking about reaching out to the masses in other forms of media as well so that more people can see the type of selfless leader you are.We wish you well and 100% support for your cause .

  10. vote

    Nostradamus, all that the President ofNAREP is doing is pointing out issues that are vital to the Zambian people,you dont have to comment or read his articles other interested individuals who have the love for mother Zambia will comment. Regarding membership cards everyone is free to buys NAREP membership cards whether they are in zambia,Europe or USA we now have representatives in all key regions of the world…..go go NAREP

  11. vote

    This is too complicated for the Chellah fella at state house. He didn’t respond to the second series. I don’t really expect him to respond to this series either. Chipimo is offering constructive criticism here which the likes of Sakeni and others would do well to heed. If people remember well, Nevers and HH have written to Sata before and the responses were more than UNPRESIDENTIAL. Yet Sakeni is always inviting the opposition to dialogue. Dialogue with people who give UNPRESIDENTIAL responses?? Dialogue with a Helter Skelter Government?? There is need for this PF Govt to humble themselves and say “look here guys. We need advice on how to run a government because we have not the faintest idea”.

  12. vote

    Okay, so the fire keeps burning for NAREP. What we need in Zambia is the opposition that will have the interest of the Zambian people first in all that they do. The young generation in our country should be looking at Chipimo with hope. 2016 will be the time to make a wise decision. Voting using our brains and not our stomach.

  13. vote

    Corruption is universal. All humans are to a certain extent corruptable or fallible. Only in Heaven can you find angels. Here on earth forces of corruption have potential to destabilize an individual, family or nation. To deal with corrutpion, impunity needs to be stamped out. The adage, crime does not pay must be digested and redigested. If the corrupt individual has been identified, then government, media and civil society need to cooperate and secure a conviction. Selective justice is corruption. Streghtening the judiciary is the responsibility of all. For instance, you find that a Christian Nation crusader like President Chiluba turned out to be more corrupt than the predecesor President Kaunda. These social problems call for pragmatism as opposed to doctrine.

  14. vote

    Surely, what is so difficult about getting a list of all new appointments to all our foreign missions abroad since October 2011? Is it not corruption to appoint only friends and relatives at the expence of a taxpayer?

    Look at some appointments, people with no education nor professional qualifications have found their way into our foreign missions and doing nothing except shopping when they get taxpayers money. They even complain that they are being underpaid for doing nothing. What an insult to Zambia.

  15. vote

    I salute you Mr. Chipimo, May God bless you abundantly and may those you advise take a leaf from your words.

  16. vote

    yah right, you politicians are the same ,now you are talking about all these things that are wrong and when we put you in office, you most likely to be the most corrupt of them all, fyi..zambian are sick and tire of you all cheap uncouth politicians..

    • vote

      Hanna, Someone once said, be the change you want to see in the world. United we’ll stand, this is what I believe Chipimo wants, me too. We want united minds and efforts for a better Zambia, remember tikali kubalana. What sort of a country do you want your children to live in?

  17. vote

    You see the problem with this week’s schoolboy essay Mr Chipimo is that you are extremely patronising – do you think we need you to explain to us regular citizens what corruption is? It’s arrogant of you to assume you are the only one in Zambia who has been to UK to learn how to read-i and write-i (which was at somebody’s expense, now who was it who paid for it I wonder…?)

    • vote

      Have some respect Sakala, Chipimo is not a school boy he is a successful corporate lawyer. Every reasonable person knows Chipimo is not the only Zambian to have been in the UK to study and that he is not patronizing. With regards to who paid for his UK studies…..he got a Rhodes scholarship this kind of scholardhip only goes to brightest students.

  18. vote

    Mr Chipimo can do better to be writing articles for a news paper. If he is not careful he risks being ignored. His kind of politics is not benefiting him or zambian at large. For example in Chivuna where I come from, people have never heard of Chipimo and the majority there can’t even read his thesis even if he were to take it there. My question is, with all such briliant ideas, why can’t NAREP start mobilizing by participating in these local and parliament by elections? Even Milupi has an Mp, Magande retired, Miyanda a joke

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