NATIONAL RESTORATION PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON 4 JUNE 2018
“Foxes in the chicken pen”
Good morning ladies and gentlemen; fellow citizens.
Once again we are meeting to address the nation on yet another set of issues centering on corruption. At a time when so many people are struggling to put food on their tables or wondering how they will make income for their ongoing obligations towards rentals, school and tuition fees, transport, food and social responsibilities like weddings and funerals, we are hit with more news about scandals and cover ups relating to the wanton plunder of our national resources.
The publication last week of the 2017 Financial Intelligence Centre Report makes sad and unacceptable reading. We want to highlight a few things following the release of this report and to put the Patriotic Front administration on notice about the responsibility they bear in ensuring that appropriate action is taken to bring to book the culprits that are implicated in the findings by the Financial Intelligence Centre.
It can no longer be right or in any way acceptable that revelations of plunder, money-laundering, tax evasion, fraud, abuse of office and corruption are simply ignored while the perpetrators and their politically-connected allies in public office snub their noses at any person that challenges them. It is irresponsible for any person in a public office with the power to act against the violation of our laws to stay silent in the face of such overwhelming evidence of systematic plunder of our national wealth, even more so, at a time when we are deeply indebted to the Chinese, Eurobond investors, multilateral lenders, private organisations and local lenders and suppliers. Much of our debt obligation is procured quietly and with questionable individuals and companies that have no proven track record of delivery in the particular area of financing required or have questionable backgrounds.
All this is coming at a time when our youth and our women have been kicked off the streets without and alternative avenue to ply their trades; when we have over 1,000 young people entering the job market every day; when over 75% of our national revenue is applied towards paying civil service salaries leaving only 23% of our income to address out healthcare, infrastructure, education and social development demands. It is no wonder that teenage pregnancies are so high; that young girls are entering into commercial sex work at the age of 12; that defilement cases are not dropping but rising; that gender-based violence is gaining momentum rather than dwindling. We have a society that has been abandoned by its leaders who have opted to live the life of luxury at the expense of the suffering masses and determined that they will do all they can to stay in power using their ill-gotten wealth. Sadly, we have a case of the fox in the chicken pen. Rather than regulate and deter plunder, the 2017 Financial Intelligence Centre report has shown very clearly that the last thing the PF administration is interested in doing is deterring any form of corruption.
Corruption is sadly a part of us
The PF is not, never has been and probably never will be interested in fighting corruption. We have seen time and time again how they have not only stayed silent in the face of corruption, but they have glaringly promoted it on several occasions. We don’t need to look back too far to recollect the directive given by the current PF Party Secretary General to PF counselors in Kabwe, asking them to retain plots for themselves while leaving a balance for the general public. To date, none of his senior colleagues have challenged him or asked that he retract the statement. This is because this has been common practice throughout councils in the country and has been going on for years.
The sad reality is that people no longer think corruption is a serious challenge as long as the leaders don’t steal everything and leave something on the table for the ordinary citizen. They recognize that corruption is hard to eradicate. However, they have begun to realise that when faced with such crushing economic hardship, corruption has only made their condition worse. The PF did not invent corruption – not at all. They have simply become experts at perfecting it and making it all seem normal. They were originally voted into office on a pro-poor agenda but they have become the enemy of the poor, plundering the national coffers at will and making a mockery of our hard fought democracy. They have used their position of power to entrench the idea that politics in Africa is about acquiring and distributing ill-gotten wealth. They have imdeed become the foxes that are guarding the chicken pen. Nothing good can come out of this equation – only more regular and more frequent destruction of the very chickens they were hired to guard.
So how do we change all this? How do we inspire the right response in our people? The answer lies partly in taking the information that has been provided by the Financial Intelligence Centre and demanding answers from our political and law enforcement leaders.
The FIC Report
It is abundantly clear from the FIC report in their presentation of Case Study 1 that there is a clear and compelling case of corruption involving high-ranking government officials and known businessmen and professional firms. The role of the FIC includes notifying the relevant enforcement agencies and tasking them with the responsibility of prosecuting the cases based on the evidence of fraud, money-laundering, corruption, theft and abuse of office. This information will have been made available to the republican president, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Zambia Revenue Authority and the Anti-Money Laundering Authority, among others.
The questions we now have to ask as journalists, members of civil society, politicians, ordinary citizens: youth, women and men that are being deprived of their livelihoods are these:
Why has President Lungu remained silent in the face of such clear evidence of crime by his very own officials?
Why are the law enforcement agencies not doing their job and prosecuting the crimes that have been identified in the FIC Report?
Why are we citizens not rising up and demanding action against the officials that were elected and appointed to regulate the plunder of our resources?
It is these questions that we must answer if we are to find any way forward in delivering on the development expectations of our nation.
We are putting the Anti-Corruption Commission on notice that we are writing to them to provide and answer as to why they have not taken action to prosecute those behind the Case Study 1 revealed in the 2017 FIC Report. Similar letters will be sent to the Anti-Money Laundering Authority, the Zambia Revenue Authority, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, our republican president. We want to know why no prosecutions have been instituted. The trail is very clear and the flow of funds and people involved easy to trace and identify, including the particular government ministries; the senior government official in the ministry that awarded the tender; the broadcasting house referred to which received K5 million; the hotel that was purchased and for which there was a payment of K17 million; the truck that was purchased and given to a relative of a politically connected person. Not acting on these very serious allegations of plunder of our national resources is tantamount to a dereliction of duty and is a terminable offence.
Starting today, we are embarking on a nation-wide campaign to collect as many signatures as possible to follow the letters that we will be sending to the law enforcement officials and politicians to convey the message that the people of Zambia have had enough of these stories of plunder and misuse of our resources; enough of the lack of action to recover what is rightfully ours; enough of the continued distribution of our land to foreign owners behind closed doors; enough of the impunity that is surrounding the leaders who should be in the forefront of fighting the deep corruption in our midst. I invite civil society, Opposition political parties, citizens, activists and stakeholders in Zambia to join us by signing the petition to return our money and give it to the people of Zambia. WE pledge that every penny that will be recovered will be paid to every family in the country that is made up of citizens of this nation. We will start with the 4.5 billion that has been identified in the 2017 FIC Report.
Finally, it should be noted that the work the Financial Intelligence Centre has done is highly commendable. If it was in our power, we would bestow on that organization and its Director-General, the highest award for bravery and commitment to national duty for fearlessly exposing the detail behind the corruption we have suspected and quietly known about for many, many years.
Let’s stop turning a blind eye to corruption, fraud, theft and plunder and let’s start acting as a people that care about our future.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)