By Sean Tembo – PeP President
1. Our position regarding the fight against corruption by the New Dawn administration has always been the same; we shall support you in this fight provided it is fair and equitable. So the question then becomes; when is the fight against corruption fair and equitable? And more specifically; how has President Hichilema performed in his fight against corruption so far?
2. From our standpoint, the fight against corruption is fair if it is undertaken without malice. That is to say when the investigators do their job without an effort to exert extrajudicial punishment on the people being investigated either through harassment or through damage to their property or due to prolonged incarceration without presenting the suspect to court or giving them police bond. For instance, there is no reason why investigators would go and execute a search warrant at Amos Chanda’s residence in the middle of the night, as alleged. You see, when you are dealing with white collar crime, there is need for civility compared to when you are dealing with violent offenders. So when you’re looking for a bunch of criminals who have been committing armed robberies around town and they are armed and dangerous, they way you execute such a search warrant or arrest warrant is different from how you execute a search warrant for a suspected fraudulent procurement with regard to a person who has a fixed aboard such as Mr Amos Chanda. If you go and execute a search warrant at the middle of the night when his family and children are sleeping, when you can do it during the day, then you are harassing the person. It means that your fight against corruption is tainted with malice.
3. Similarly, the case of Davis Mwila makes sad reading. Why was he incarcerated for 12 days without being presented to court? And why did the State initially charge him with attempted murder when they knew that the evidence which they had could not support such a charge? Also, why did Vice President Mutale Nalumango lie to Parliament that the charge of attempted murder is non-bailable when in fact it is bailable? You can see a clear pattern here by the State to exact extrajudicial punishment against Mr Davis Chama. This behavior by Hichilema’s administration is not different from the behavior of the PF regime in which they charged political opponents with baseless crimes, dragged them through the criminal justice system at great cost, only to enter a nolle prosequi later. When the people voted out PF and voted in UPND, their hope was that such vindictiveness would end with Lungu, but alas, Hichilema is proving to be even more vindictive.
4. The case of how ACC officers are said to have harassed and damaged the property of the losing Chipata Central PF Parliamentary Candidate, Mr Amon Jere, makes very sad reading. Mr Jere has never worked for Government and he is an accomplished professional and respected member of the community in his own right. If the ACC or indeed any law enforcement agency suspected that he had committed an offense, they simply needed to execute their search warrant in a civilized manner that is devoid of harassment or damage to property. Remember that he has not been charged with any crime, so at this point he is not even a suspect, but merely a person of interest. You cannot treat a person of interest as if he is a convicted criminal. No. Such harassment is simply unacceptable.
5. Perhaps it is time for us to answer the second question; when is the fight against corruption equitable? It is when everyone is being treated fairly regardless of political affiliation or the region where they hail from. In this regard, we expect President Hichilema to treat the alleged corruption that took place during Lungu’s administration with the same veracity as the corruption which is currently taking place in his administration right now. Already, we are aware of the fertilizer scandal in which the husband to one of Hichilema’s Ministers has been awarded a $50 million contract to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer when there were other bidders with a significantly lower price. Secondly, the Minister in question did not declare an interest as required by the Anti-Corruption Act No. 3 of 2012 for dealings by connected persons. The husband clearly meets the definition of a “connected person” as defined by the Act. The Minister’s excuse that she does not get involved with the businesses of her husband simply does not hold water in the eyes of the law. Thirdly, the Minister’s husband was paid $50 million in advance before delivery of the fertilizer and in the absence of any Performance Bond. All these are gross public procurement violations and we would have expected the ACC and other law enforcement agencies to be camping at the Minister’s house by now if Hichilema’s fight against corruption was equitable. But it’s quiet. This means that in the eyes of Hichilema, corruption is only corruption if it was perpetrated by those connected with the former PF administration. If anyone connected to the New Dawn administration is involved in corruption, then Hichilema simply looks the other way. That means Hichilema’s so-called fight against corruption is neither fair nor equitable. It is merely a witch-hunt that is designed to vanquish and annihilate all his perceived political opponents. We are not saying that there is no corruption that took place during Lungu’s administration, of course there was. Plenty of it actually. But when the fight against such corruption is not genuine and is tainted with malice, then it loses all credibility in the eyes of right-thinking members of the public. At the end of the day, instead of us focusing on the corruption that might have taken place during Lungu’s administration, our focus is now being diverted to the malice, vengeance, lack of fairness, lack of equity and overall vindictiveness of Hichilema’s fight against corruption.
6. Indeed, instead of Hichilema being a messiah and savior to the Zambian people, he has reincarnated himself as a demigod. He has taken Lungu’s dictatorship, vengefulness and arrogance, multiplied it by two and embraced it as his own. Hichilema is Lungu reloaded. Perhaps the only difference which will be there is that whereas Lungu lasted 7 years, Hichilema is likely to last only 5. And whereas in the middle of Lungu’s corruption, dictatorship, arrogance, incompetence and vengefulness, he at least managed to leave us with a trail of infrastructure ranging from roads to bridges, hospitals, schools etcetera, the only legacy which Hichilema is likely to leave us with after we kick him out of office will be IMF milestones and completion points.