Minister of Infrastructure Ronald Chitotela explains on the progress of the road to President Edgar Lungu during the inspecting the progress on Lumumba roads
FILE: Minister of Infrastructure Ronald Chitotela explains on the progress of the road to President Edgar Lungu during the inspecting the progress on Lumumba roads

By Sishuwa Sishuwa

Last week, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development Ronald Kaoma Chitotela on suspicion of corruption. Chitotela, 46, was subsequently charged with two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime, contrary to Section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010. The minister was then released on police bond and is set to appear in court soon. Responding to public calls that Chitotela be removed from his ministerial position, President Edgar Lungu argued that he can only dismiss the Pambashe constituency Patriotic Front (PF) lawmaker if he is eventually found guilty. To avoid misrepresenting what Lungu said, it is worth quoting his remarks at length: “A suspect in the eyes of law enforcement agencies can be arrested. And they have chosen to arrest Honorable Chitotela…so they have to prove before the courts of law and I hope they give him a chance to prove himself, if he is corrupt…[To] those who are calling for the removal of Honorable Chitotela now, I say ‘no, give me space to breathe’, but don’t interfere with the process, bring your evidence but let him also have his day in court. That’s what justice [entails], and I am a lawyer. And if you look at the Bill of Rights, I think Article 18, it starts with presumption of innocence. So as far as I am concerned, he is innocent. I [have previously] lost Chishimba Kambwili because of allegations of corruption by the same forces. I don’t want to lose Chitotela in the same manner.”

I do not know which ‘same forces’ Lungu was referring to. What I know is that Lungu’s claim that his decision to keep Chitotela in his ministerial position has to do with his previously unknown commitment to the principles of natural justice is as unconvincing as it is laughable. Since when did one find Lungu and justice in the same sentence except when contrasting the two? Much has been said about the dismissal of former Minister of Community Development and Social Services Emerine Kabanshi as well as Zambia Postal Services Corporation Master General Macpherson Chanda to whom the principle of the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was never applied before they were fired. Lungu has also been callously indifferent to thousands of civil servants who have been retired in his official name or in national interest, many of whom were never given a chance to be heard before they lost their jobs. In any case, both the Ministerial Code of Conduct and Section 47 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act Number 3 of 2012 provide for the immediate suspension of those charged with corruption or facing criminal offenses in court. So what explains Lungu’s double standards in relation to Chitotela’s case? In my view, and broadly speaking, there are three reasons why Lungu is reluctant to drop Chitotela from Cabinet.

First, Lungu’s presidency has many centres of power, whose unifying and driving energy is accumulation, and Chitotela’s centre is one of them. The President fears that firing Chitotela might seriously disrupt the stability of the whole and potentially drive the Pambashe PF MP into the welcome arms of the opposition. Were he to be fired, there is no guarantee that a disappointed Chitotela might remain in the governing party; he may opt to join ranks with the fledging opposition Democratic Party, led by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba, or even the main opposition United Party for National Development. Such a move, were it to materialise, is likely to embolden Lungu’s political opponents ahead of the likely-to-be-competitive 2021 election. The President’s reference to his ‘loss’ of Kambwili should be understood in this context.

When serving as a minister in government, Kambwili was not only one of the many centres of power but also Lungu’s most vociferous and fervent defender. There was no action the government and Lungu could take that he would not try to justify. Out of office, he has experienced a conversion like St Paul on the Road to Damascus. To diffuse any potential charge that he was previously close to the levers of power, Kambwili has quite successfully recast himself as the spokesperson for the ‘common man’, street vendors, university students, the workers and many others who are disillusioned with Lungu’s rule. In a context of what appears to be a systematic crackdown on free speech, he has also become one of the PF’s most trenchant public critics – exposing corruption in government, highlighting Lungu’s manifold inadequacies, denouncing economic exploitation by Chinese investors and refusing to be silenced. Although he is no Michael Sata, Kambwili is an effective grassroots mobiliser who has taken a significant portion of support away from the PF, which could potentially hurt the ruling party’s re-election prospects – especially on the Copperbelt where he is quite popular. This is the kind of political effect that Lungu fears may follow Chitotela’s dismissal from Cabinet and prosecution on corruption charges. Whereas Kabanshi was a political nonentity of little financial muscle, the President knows that Chitotela, who is part of a significant internal party faction dubbed ‘Luapula United’, may have amassed sufficient wealth to seriously mount an effective challenge to Lungu’s power outside the PF. Given his narrow election victory in 2016, his subsequent loss of Kambwili’s centre of power, and the impending social unrest that is likely to result from Zambia’s worsening economic situation, Lungu may have reasoned that he cannot afford to ‘lose’ Chitotela. Keeping him in his ministerial position thus prevents the arrested minister from leaving the PF to join Lungu’s opponents. A legal process conducted outside the ruling party could also provide Chitotela with a platform to launch criticisms of the government or accuse other key figures in the government including Lungu of corruption.

Second, Lungu may be reluctant to drop Chitotela from Cabinet probably because he thinks that the ACC has no power under the current legal dispensation to prosecute a serving Cabinet minister for corruption and abuse of office. Informed by this thinking, he may have reasoned, especially when the first point is taken into consideration, that the courts are thus likely to dismiss Chitotela’s case at its preliminary stage and, given this prospect, the benefit of keeping him in his ministerial post far exceeds the cost of dismissing him. Before demonstrating how flawed this thinking (reportedly espoused by the ACC itself) is, it is important to establish its roots. The view that the ACC presently has no powers to prosecute ministers is predicated on the idea that the earlier cited Anti-Corruption Act, under which the investigative body operates, only empowers it to initiate legal action against a ‘public officer’. The Act defines a public officer as ‘any person who is a member of, holds office in, is employed in the service of, or performs a function for, a public body, whether such membership, office, service, function or employment is permanent or temporary, appointed or elected, fulltime or part-time, or paid or unpaid’. The Act further defines a ‘public body’ as ‘the Government, any Ministry or department of the Government the National Assembly, the Judicature, a local authority, parastatal, board, council authority, commission or other body appointed by the Government, or established by, or under, any written law’. Zambia’s amended 2016 Constitution has however introduced another term, ‘state officer’, which is separate from ‘public officer’. Article 266 defines a public officer as ‘a person holding or acting in a public office but does not include a state officer, councillor, constitutional office holder, a judge and a judicial officer’. The clause further defines a ‘state officer’ as ‘a person holding or acting in state office’, itself defined as any office that ‘includes the office of the President, Vice-President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Member of Parliament, Minister and Provincial Minister’.

The ACC has read and understood these changed constitutional terminologies to mean that it no longer has any mandate to prosecute public officers who are now classified as State officers. It is this thinking that helps explain why the ACC charged Chitotela using the Penal Code and the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act, under which he can be prosecuted in his individual capacity, rather than the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012. It might also explain why the ACC may have decided against charging Chitotela with abuse of office for his other reported serious offences that emanate from the exercise of his official duties. I acknowledge the need to amend the relevant sections of the Anti-Corruption Act if only to formally bring the legislation into line with the changed provisions of the Constitution. However, I am not persuaded by the argument that the ACC cannot prosecute ministers as a result of Article 266, though the provision may have been specifically inserted into Zambia’s Constitution by the would-be plunderers based on the thinking that doing so would help cover them from prosecution. There is no law that expressly confers immunity from prosecution on Cabinet ministers. The only public official who enjoys such immunity is the President and even in his or her case, such immunity is not absolute. So, the ACC can still prosecute ministers for abuse of office, notwithstanding the definition of a public officer in the amended Constitution. I urge the ACC to bring more serious charges against Chitotela and any minister suspected of involvement in corruption.

I must confess though that I have little faith in the current ACC Acting Director-General Rosemary Khuzwayo and I am not the only one. I know many Zambians who also think she was put into the position because Lungu regarded her as a pliant individual who, like her counterpart in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Lillian Siyunyi, would be less likely to take the requirements of her job seriously, which in Khuzwayo’s case means proactively investigating corruption. Khuzwayo and her team should not use the terminologies of who is a public or state officer as the pretext on which they cannot prosecute perpetrators of corruption and those who abuse public office. They must enforce the law and, if in doubt about the meaning of who a public officer is in relation to the Anti-Corruption Act and the amended Constitution, should be the first to test the law and cause the courts to interpret it. Charging Chitotela or any minister with abuse of office would serve this purpose. Maintaining the status quo will only reinforce widespread public perceptions that Khuzwayo was put into her position to do the bidding of the executive arm of Government. I am aware that there are many forthright and upstanding junior officers in the ACC who are ready to go wherever the evidence leads them, but whose efforts are continuously thwarted by their superiors, who are more susceptible to political influence. If Khuzwayo does not enforce the law, she should prepare for the day when she will leave office and possibly face prosecution for perverting the course of justice.

The final and most probable reason why Chitotela is unlikely to lose his ministerial position is that his arrest is arguably a smokescreen designed to undermine growing public criticism of increased levels of corruption in Lungu’s administration. Opposition Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) president Sean Tembo made reference to this point last week. Tembo is right. Hurt by the persistent criticism that he is presiding over a kleptocratic regime and eager to undermine such legitimate charges, Lungu may have sanctioned Chitotela’s arrest to intentionally mislead international donors and civil society organisations that he is committed to fighting corruption. Corruption has become so synonymous to Zambia under Lungu’s rule that outsiders’ knowledge of the country extends to little else. Previously, a Zambian could travel abroad in the knowledge that curious strangers would greet them with predictable remarks: ‘Oh, you are from Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda’s nation; or Kalusha Bwalya’s country’. Nowadays, the country is infamous for its commitment to corruption, especially in relation to public procurement, perpetrated by the basest of us – a coterie of unscrupulous elite scumbags, hypocrites, kakistocrats, and scoundrels of all sorts who somehow find themselves in power. The $42 million that the government allegedly spent on buying 42 fire trucks provides a trending example of how the country’s previously benign image has been replaced by a notorious one, characterised by the rampant official pillaging of public resources. The new image is one that even Zambia’s former vice-president Guy Scott could not escape from addressing in his recently released memoirs:

“The case of Zambia’s forty-two secondhand fire engines became known to everyone who has heard of Zambia – or at least cares about it. It seems so straightforward that it appeals to everyone, especially those who do not want to delve into more complex issues. In December 2015, Inonge Wina – now my successor as vice-president – reportedly announced that government had spent K40 million (perhaps $4 million, but it is hard to be exact as the Kwacha was wildly fluctuating at the time) on firefighting equipment, including forty-two fire engines. The whole issue then went quiet. Nearly two years later, fire engines were back in the news. Still forty-two of them, but by then costing $42 million. Even with spare tyres and smart new uniforms, there is simply no fire engine, new or secondhand, big or small, that costs $1 million.”

There are other cases, too numerous to mention, of grand official corruption that have occurred under Lungu’s watch. The point is that Lungu lacks any genuine commitment to fighting corruption. If anything, a predilection for corruption is generally seen by many Zambians as a prerequisite to winning Lungu’s favour or friendship. For some reason, Lungu generally repels the talented and attracts the violent, inept and most debased – those whose conduct betrays a lack of respect for themselves, for any moral and ethical values, the law and their appointing authority. This consideration probably explains why he re-appointed Chitotela – who, in December 2013, was dismissed from his ministerial position by then President Michael Sata for suspected corruption – to a ministerial post soon after his election in 2015. No sane Zambian can therefore accuse Lungu of retaining any hostility to graft. In more recent times, however, the tag of corruption has begun to really hurt both his and the PF’s image. It is one that they had hoped would fade away with time. Unfortunately for them, it has persisted and threatens to undermine the ruling party’s electoral prospects in 2021. Lungu’s lacklustre response to corruption has also seriously eroded public confidence in the credibility of state institutions such as the ACC, whose mandate is to fight the scourge.

In endorsing Chitotela’s arrest, Lungu is possibly seeking to hoodwink many into thinking that he is ‘a born again’, committed to fighting corruption and that State investigative agencies like the ACC retain the autonomy and support required for them to operate effectively. They can, if such institutions want, institute any charges against his ministers and he will not stand in their way. Khuzwayo and the ACC may also use this possibly staged stunt against Chitotela to project a modicum of independence and a false commitment to fighting corruption. Lungu and the ACC probably know, however, that all this is simply a façade. In the nearly impossible instance that Chitotela is convicted of corruption, Lungu can then use him as an example of his administration’s commitment to combatting the scourge. By that time, Chitotela would have become so disgraced that any party that welcomes him into its fold risks going down with him. Were he to be ultimately acquitted, Lungu, who has done much to undermine internal opposition to his rule, especially from those with wider political ambitions, would have succeeded in convincing Chitotela to see him as his paternalistic saviour who deserves sycophantic support.

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48 COMMENTS

  1. Mushuwa mushuwa,so you think the you understand things is the way everyone should.Your inclination has rendered you,useless.
    Kabanshi was fired because of corruption but failure to supervise and implement programs,for chipotles,he is workaholic,hard working and competent.The case given to Chitotela is very weak at law,ref Liato’s case.

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    • Excellent writeup, great diction and syntax too. There is only one reason why EL won’t fire Chitotela. EL personally benefits from Chitotela’s deals. Chitotela is the link between EL, corruption and the Chinese, much in the same way that RDA Willie Nsanda was the link between corruption and Sata. Ask sources close to Lungu what he means when he says “na’mwamba ukulya shesu?” He always uses that phrase to scold ministers who don’t deliver his share.

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    • @Shishuwa, boyi that article is a mercy, there is KK and Kalusha in Chitotela’s story?
      @Great, yes you tried to shave bear of Shishuwa.
      – Ba Kabanshi never stole or investigated, she was like the ACC director, not knowing what to do. No managerial skills.
      – but Chitotela ena ni suspect of theft. He is a good supervisor, but steals.

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    • Lungu is a violent dictator whose regime is responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Zambia’s history.

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    • Sishuwa am waiting for Isaac Mwanza who normally details legal perspective than u who is tainted with bad judgment because of your dislike for Lungu

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    • The truth is that exposing Chitotela also risks exposing Lungu’s dealings with AVIC. It’s no secret that Lungu has amassed $-Billions in wealth from bribes/kickbacks from AVIC International & other Chinese construction firms.

      Its the same reason why Lungu threw the 2018 FIC report in the dust bin bcoz it exposed how Chitotela laundered $-millions bribes using law firm Andrews & partners & 2 proxy companies with no employees (read Diggers News analysis). Chitotela bought the 2 houses using AVIC bribes.
      In a few months time, when pipo will have forgotten, Chitotela will be acquitted by our rotten judiciary.
      Its so disturbing that the constitution was also altered to specifically protect plunderers from prosecution.

      Lungu is the Alpha & Omega corruption.

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    • A good read and I think you might be right.

      I think your third reason is unlikely and the first and second are more probable.

      Thanks

      BB2024,2016

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    • Now Sishuwa has my support, he is spot on!!

      Only a Docile Zambian as we know them would castigate such a report. I am encouraging all non Docile Zambians to however, continue the fight and keep informing citizens including the Docule ones. Let’s keep praying for them and continue hitting the points home.

      I can assure you that most Docile Zambians have read the headline and commented rubbish like they always do. God save, guys let us continue praying for them and hitting the points across.

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    • Dr Sichuwa you forgot to state that Zambian citizens under PF are mephistophelian bunch. A cunning and grossly kleptocratic clique leads a largely docile citizenry with a few exceptions, willing to take everything thrown at it by the PF regime and waiting for the next weekend to go for prayers after looting the state the previous week. Man we are such a shameless disgrace as evidenced by our willingness to be led by the basest among us as we cheer them on in their incessant looting of the state. Dr Sishuwa, thank you VERY MUCH for another great article, very analytical and full of wit too!

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    • I felt lazy completing this somewhat lengthy personal opinion. Midway through, I lost touch and fell asleep.
      Sishua, learn to keep your stories brief and to the point. It’s pointless writing a bulk of opinionated stuff sugarcoated with the wiskerest of intellect.
      I hate long and void essays. Yak! What a waste of valuable time.

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  2. I thought ECL would ACT as in last paragraph.
    Let’s see how this unfolds.
    The game is on. ACC and DEC have kicked the ball.
    Appropriate or inappropriate action and reaction will determine the Zambia’s destine.

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  3. Donors must withhold the money they want to give to Zambia. Corruption is their on for them all to see and why should they ignore it. Someone is tolerating corruption because he is corrupt too.

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  4. How do you let a suspected criminal continue on a job, don’t you suspend the person after which he or she can return after being cleared. Right now this person is being empowered to hide his tracks. So right now he is doing everything to conceal his crime which includes tampering with witnesses, how are you going to convict such a one. The only hope is through a different government

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  5. You have given three quite variant reasons. You are groping in the dark – guessing, hoping one will land close to the target. Why don’t you just accept the reason ECL gave? I think that is more plausible than your theories.

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  6. The cases you have hastly refered to are distinctively different. Kabanshi it was incompetence and negligence in nature that is why she is not being prosecuted. For Chitotela, it is an accusation of actual crime. The cases presented are also very weak. Concealing property believed to be proceeds of crime. Prove it before punishment can be metted. It’s easy just prove it and the guy will resign on his own.

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  7. Exactly my thoughts, the question is who should we elect in 2021, since according to the articles that Sishuwa has written on HH and ECL, both of these men have great challenges to take this country forward? Our parliament is so weak and that is the reason we end up with such mediocre leadership. The masses on the other hand are wallowing in abject poverty such that they end up voting for misfits simply because they are bribed to do so. Our education system is in limbo and only a few are able to pull through and get jobs. Where do you stand Sishuwa? Who can the people vote for come 2021? We need to answers before we repeat the same mistake.

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  8. Sishuwa sishuwa, pa nsaka tapabulwa chiwelewele you are full of lies and twisting facts will never help you to achieve your goals and the good thing is Zambians know you as from the crooked limb.

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  9. Interesting posting indeed. The writer consistently used the word ‘may’ from which l can deduce that his thoughts were put on paper with a high degree of assumption on most points. But truly speaking, its a very a good analysis basing assumption and constructionism. If the writer was a president, definitely, he will do something that can make him stay long in power . This is what everyone is doing. HH for instance is not of the idea to go for party election because he knows what he want. If the party went, his money power will work for him. l therefore, support ECL!

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    • Yes thats wat GBM said bcoz why now wen chitotela’s corruption record has been heard for a long time without any action why now.

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    • That is besides the point – the issue is that he is suspected to have stolen. You cannot be arrested for having presidential ambitions – but you will be arrested with or without presidential ambitions if you steal.

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    • Abilima as usual because of zeal for Upnd you can’t even appreciate the irony and funny side of the posting. Seriously one would have looked at the statement of your running mate and compare to what Shishuwa has written. I haven’t made any opinion on the article but I am only reminding (albeit jokingly ) that they swallowed what GBM said hook,sinker and line. Just revisit that article and how your members “welcomed ” Chitotela.

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    • Abilima by the way I would recommend that you read the BBC article on how William Jefferson Clinton survived the impeachment move after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and how it helped him win reelection for the second term.

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  10. SISHUWA SISHUWA,

    Thanks for your well – articulated article. It is definitely a SONA (State of the National Address). One cannot say it better than to say, this is a kleptocracy by a coterie of scumbags, kakistocracy and scoundrels. Levels of indecency will never be this high even in the next 100 years.

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  11. Sishuwa,
    Read this again and tell me whether this is not a careless statement from you which is indefensible:
    “Given his narrow election victory in 2016, his subsequent loss of Kambwili’s centre of power, and the impending social unrest that is likely to result from Zambia’s worsening economic situation, Lungu may have reasoned that he cannot afford to ‘lose’ Chitotela.” Would you be able to substantiate this if called upon to? When is this social unrest likely to come about? How do you know this? Could you probably be an architect of this impending unrest, Sishuwa? Careful mwaice ka!

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    • Spot on, Zedoc!!! Even Chifire thought he was a champion, where is he today??? And when things go wrong, the same people they support don’t even care. Mulomgoti almost died in UTH yet neither hh nor gbm did much to help him.

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    • zedoc

      It is clear to all but the ardent die hard corrupt theiving supporters of lungu that Zambia is headed for dire straits…..the worsening economic situation, after spending $17 billion you still have some of the highest unemployment…..with the improved infrastructure the people expect corresponding improved standards of living , which will not happen.
      You will have a us and them between PF looters and the common man.

      As of now, only 2 things are helping the impending unrest, relative stable globale economy and good weather. Any wabbles in any of those, especially the weather, will be the end of lungu…….

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    • Really shallow writing by Sishuwa – imagine he says Chitotela can run to and embolden the opposition. How can a thief embolden the opposition? Isn’t this the same reason the Zambian opposition is not going anywhere? Has GBM emboldened UPND?

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  12. Then you wonder why President Edgar Lungu was stripped of practicing law. The man is a con and is incompetent to say the least.

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  13. What a load of [email protected]!!! This is a pure upnd statement. In fact, in future, Sishungwa’s articles should be part of the upnd mediocre media circus-they should even be released from the upnd secretariat or their favourite Golfview conference room. Sishungwa should stop hiding behind the intellectual or political analyst veil but just announce his affiliation to upnd. Useless bantustan cadre!!!!

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  14. Zambia really needs to educate its citizens. Some people are simply failing to assimilate what the author has written and are busy exposing their ignorance through useless questions. It’s true that we are now being led by thugs and imbeciles. Shame on all of you who are blindly supporting a wrong because of a few benefits that you are enjoying today.

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    • ….and shame on those who blindly support the undemocratic, dictatorial and lack of respect of laws of the upnd leadership that constantly and unpatriotically disparages our country Zambia!!!

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  15. Excellent and well researched article….your discourse is very enlightening and I agree to the rationale you provide on the failure and non commitment by the head of state to fight graft!!! Zambia needs thinkers like you..well done..

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  16. I have been calling lungu a corrupt theif from day one……. I repeat, lungu is a violent corrupt theif who has used his lawyer skills to corrupt entire systems in Zambia……

    The only thing saving Zambia from a fate similar to Zaire , is there is not enough money for lungu to bribe and corrupt the whole country, those left out will sing, and sing like a bird they will…
    .

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  17. Pray for those in authority that they perform, if not WE REMOVE them from office. As Sons of God non performing and corrupt leaders working with Satan to steal kill and destroy we fire them
    instantly without waiting for 2021.

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  18. We will arrest lungu for stealing like what we did with chiluba once he leaves office…just wait and see.

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