By: Anthony Bwalya – UPND Member
Since the year 2014, Zambia has lost an estimated $500 million in Mukula revenue as a result of illegal underdeclaration of exports by the Zambian side.
Over the same period, another estimated $38 million has been paid and received in bribes by top government officials in this country, with new information now placing the presidency, a member of the first family, top government Ministers and a member of the traditional leadership now implicated.
And the primary reason the Patriotic Front (PF) political establishment, through it’s Media Director Sunday Chanda and and it’s defacto Spokesperson Emmanuel Mwamba, vehemently defended the Mukula Cartel is simply that the party is a beneficiary.
We have always spoken on the record, and repeatedly raised the alarm to the effect that Zambia is now firmly under the spell of political state capture. The political party Zambians elected into office serve and protect their interests, as well as acting for and on their behalf in the best national interest, has finally gone rogue. The Patriotic Front (PF) political establishment has facilitated the hostile and criminal takeover of government and all of its key institutions to ensure that economic gains are disproportionately, illegally and illegally diverted away from citizens and into the pockets of the presidency, top PF government officials, the party and their profit seeking private associates.
From the patterns of grand corruption thus far investigated and published, we now know that corruption under the PF administration is not perpetrated by individuals but rather sponsored by the party and the state. This is why it is and has been difficult for the PF establishment and government to act decisively against the corruption activities involving top party and government officials, as well as the party itself.
In February 2017, armed with information that there were several thousands of cubic meters of Mukula bound for export but lay in the hands of private permit holders, greed got the better of the PF administration. They panicked and put an illegal blockade on all Mukula exports. According to correspondence we have looked at by the Zambia Association of Timber and Forestry Based Industries, the 2017 ban, just like the 2012 ban, was instituted illegally, against the prescriptions of Article 64 of the Forestry Act No. 4 of 2015. The ban was never supported by a statutory instrument. They seized this timber and proceeded to illegally selling it to willing buyers, using ZAFFICO as a conduit. Only now are we learning of the gross underdeclaration and misrepresentation of revenues which arose from this illegal seizure and selling of the private property of Zambian companies, with a greater proportion of the arising revenue going into the pockets of individuals and never onto the books of ZAFFICO.
I personally know Two (2) legitimate local timber processing companies that collapsed, losing several thousands of US dollars in investment capital, inventory, idle machinery, incomes, livelihoods, lost jobs; thanks to this illegal, savage and heavy-handed wielding of power by corrupt PF operatives. In the end, it was corrupt government politicians who ended up dubiously benefitting from the efforts and private investments of hardworking Zambians. The value of the seized consignment alone exceeded $20 million and yet this was just a drop in the ocean.
Realizing how much money there was to be made, the PF government used Jean Kapata to cause ZAFFICO to be selectively issuing “special permits” to top government officials ONLY for the illegal harvest and export of Mukula trees. But even when the purported ban was in place, these corrupt government sponsored operatives were cutting down and exporting Mukula under the guise that the trees originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of course, this was all a facade.
But the plunder of Mukula trees at the hands of PF operatives and government officials is just one area where the country is being raped and deprived of the much needed revenue to invest into our various social and economic sectors.
And it is no surprise that the party has come to the aid of it’s thieving proxies in government. The PF itself is on the record and has been cited for receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for the award of public contracts. This is in the Financial Intelligence Center report for the period ended 2018.
The PF also unequivocally and shamelessly defended the fraudsters in $42 million the Fire Tender scam, just as they defended the $35 million Maizegate scammers. The PF also came to the defense of those at the heart of the £3.5 million social cash transfer scandal, defended the criminals who spent up to $11 million on ambulances that never arrived, the thieves that stole $400,000 worth of test kits at MoH, as well as those who procured $4 million of expired drugs – again at MoH.
It is also the PF who have systematically shielded public sector payroll fraudsters who have racked in close to $800 million since 2012 in ghost worker salary payments.
We also know, that the 20% local contracts allocation is a scheme to divert public resources to the PF political party establishment as these contracts are issued to companies owners by Ministers and other party operatives, despite their repeated and shambolic record of never delivering on public works.
This is the legacy of the PF – a legacy of theft and plunder.
No single individual within the PF can fix this rot. The rot sits at the heart of the party and one certain way of averting the impending catastrophe connected to this filth is to vote the PF out of power.