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Monday, August 8, 2022

HH’s fight against corruption: Cutting through the noise

Columns HH’s fight against corruption: Cutting through the noise

By Charles Mundia

Now that Messrs Musa Mwenye and Gilbert Phiri have now received their parliamentary ratifications as Chairperson and Director General of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) respectively, two things should immediately occupy their attention. Firstly, they are taking over a broken down institution whose standing in the eyes of the public is at the lowest ebb. Their close proximity to President Hichilema before the August 2021 election is actually an inconvenience as their execution of duty will be viewed from the same lenses as those used on the Head of State.

Besides a branch and root clean-up of the ACC, the Chairperson and Director General should quickly define their own paths. They should as a matter of urgency seek to take steps that will position the Commission as an autonomous institution with the ability to set its own terms. Chairperson Mwenye should quickly disengage the Commission from the ambit of State House. The ACC Act of 2012 has set out clear and adequate operational framework that to a very good extent guarantees its autonomy. Having the ACC sit at State House does not, structurally, administratively or in any other way help to cut its inefficiencies.

In his inauguration speech, President Hichilema spoke passionately about fighting corruption. He said, “The scourge of corruption has not only eroded our much-needed resources, but it has also robbed us of the opportunity for growth. We shall have zero tolerance to corruption. This will be our hallmark. The fight against corruption will be professional and not vindictive. The institutions mandated to investigate and prosecute will be given unfettered autonomy to effectively and efficiently carry out their mandate without fear or favour of political bias.”

As it stands, President Hichilema’s fight against corruption does not look like the one he promised when he held that Bible in his hand to take his Oath at Heroes Stadium. At best, when he speaks about fighting corruption, he is now beginning to sound like a broken record.

A Crisis of Perception

Established in 1980 under the Corrupt Practices Act, the Commission has largely received a good amount of local and international goodwill. Throughout the past administrations, from the Kaunda right down to the Lungu administration, the Commission has enjoyed a somewhat stable flow of support both technical and financial from its partners including from the Government of the Republic of Zambia. Undoubtedly, the best period for the Commission was during the Mwanawasa administration when late President Mwanawasa launched a zero tolerance policy to corruption and established the Task Force on Corruption which worked closely with Commission to implement the National Anti-Corruption Policy with the Commission as the lead Agency in the fight against graft. During this period, the Commission received unprecedented levels of donor support as many stakeholders actually believed that the Commission was a force for good. Today, some 16 years later, the Zambia Anti-Corruption Commission which commanded huge respect at home, in the region and internationally is unrecognisable. The Commission that sits at Kulima Tower Building in the filthy part of Lusaka CBD is but just a shell. The once respected state institution has been reduced to a wild dog used to scare away political rivals. It backs all the time with little or nothing to show for. President Hichilema has not helped matters. By micro managing the ACC, he is not be absorbed from the blame.

Get some real work done

With a poor average conviction rate of around 11% from over 500 cases, the Commission in its current state is not fit for purpose. Moments following President Hichilema’s inauguration, like excited kids in a candy store, the ACC swung into action and started announcing searches and seizures of property suspected to be proceeds of crimes belonging to former government and party officials who served in the previous administration. As at the end of May, around 20 people closely linked to the PF had been searched, warned and cautioned, arrested and their properties seized or restricted but none have been convicted or even found with a case to answer to date. To their credit, the biggest catch for the ACC so far has been Faith Musonda. She used the Forfeiture of Proceeds Act to reach a settlement with the ACC and returned K65 million, US$57,900 and a House to the State in October 2021. From the heavyweights such as Given Lubinda, Bowman Lusambo, Samuel Mukupa, Ronald Chitotela to junior party officials such as Maxwell Chongo, the ACC and their cohorts at DEC and OP have been very busy issuing very alarming and misleading headlines using a particular Tabloid on some high profile cases when they have very little chance at prosecution. They have also had the offices for former First Lady Esther Lungu searched and they found nothing.

Remember the headlines, “Bowman owns 49 Houses,” which was in the News Diggers Newspaper of January 12th 2021? The ACC leaked the story to gain public support in their so called fight against corruption. When Mr. Lusambo was finally charged, there was no mention of 49 Houses. What he was charged with are 4 counts of possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime in Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces. The ACC said Mr. Lusambo was in possession of property number f/609/e/44/13/9, property number Ndo/ln_77505/1, property number Masai/ln_1005309/1, and property number Palab/ln_73112/17.

The also charged him with two counts of concealment of property in the Lusaka and Copperbelt and that he concealed property number Masai/ln_100328/218 disguised in the name of Mbachi Nkwazi and property number Ndo/ln_1004844/191 disguised in the name of Gatbro International Limited. When the matter finally went to court, the ACC in a very unconventional manner was allowed to change the indictment. They struck off the Gatbro International Limited. What was also interesting that the property they screamed about was some virgin land in his home village in Masaiti and the property they suspect him of concealing actually is a half done transaction in the name of Nancy Manase who happens to be his lawfully wedded wife. According to ACC officers, a man can be so dumb that he can actually conceal property in the wife’s name. They made further screaming headlines when they raided Amos Chanda’s property. According to the ACC, having served former President Edgar Chagwa Lungu as his Press Secretary, Amos ought to have been corrupt. They raided his property with the glare of cameras and as usual they drew a blank. They took him and his wife in for allegedly insulting ACC officers and that is a case they have spent close to a year trying to win in court.

Musa and Gilbert should know that the ACC is made up of corrupt, half trained and incompetent men and women who are so bad at their jobs and the Commission is to stand any chance at winning any cases of corruption, a major overhaul is necessary.

Posterity is waiting

Both Musa and Gilbert have done exceptionally well for themselves. As a criminal lawyer, Gilbert commands some good level of respect among his peers. In some circles, he is considered to be one of the finest criminal lawyers around. For Musa, he is respected for his high standards of integrity. He has publicly announced how much he abhors corruption. His experience having served as Attorney and Solicitor General and his many years at the Bar should help provide the much needed leadership at the Commission. The entire Board of Commissioners should also bring some valuable experience in the ACC Boardroom. Both on the good side of 40 years, Gilbert and Musa should be fully aware that posterity is waiting and watching and will judge them accordingly.

*Charles Mundia is a political analyst based in Lusaka

12 COMMENTS

  1. “ The scourge of corruption has not only eroded our much-needed resources, but it has also robbed us of the opportunity for growth.” How does HH explain the undervaluing of Govt resources later on buying them himself? And acusses Hovt of sleeping??

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  2. HH’s passionate words during his inauguration have not been followed by real action. And with 90% of civil servants and 95% of police officers being 100% corrupt this is an uphill struggle. But at the moment the president is wasting time and money flying around the world (not bringing home any tangible achievements) while the ACC is sitting on their hands.

  3. Seriously this organisation just needs disbanding – conviction rate of around 11% from over 500 cases is a joke. I have said and say it again get new talented recruits from UNZA and CBU train them up seek technical assistance from FBI, Norway and UK. You can not fight corruption with the same corrupt officers

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  4. First step should be to disband criminal gangs like PF. Scatter its members to Chavuma, Chiengi, Chadiza, Choma, Chama, Chozi and other areas and interrogate them individually, they will reveal. We want shelters like the toll gate on the Kitwe Ndola road to have the 80 million kwacha recovered immediately. Of course they covered their tracks so well that even if Scotland Yard was to be brought in, Zambia wont even recover not even one tenth of what was plundered

  5. How long does a court case last in Zambia? How many corruptinon cases have been started in court and how many have been lost since Upnd took office? Many of these critics were busy doing nice write ups of why PF will win the 2021 elections and it never came to pass. Results of what Upnd is doing now will start sometime next year, you have not seen anything yet?

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  6. Ok this is not such a bad article except for a few issues. First the Task Force on Corruption under LPM was a misnomer it was a monster led by two brothers and the post. The late GK had advised for a commission of enquiry or the beefing up of the ACC, DEC to do its job this was ignored. At the end of the the lawyers made a killing as did the socialist who lives like a capitalist. All it did was weaken the ACC. The way forward of course if skills training, up lift the morale of the staff and stop making them feel like second hand law enforcers….they need a complete 360 to deliver.

  7. I wish to disagree that the ACC received a lot of support under LPM. His formation of the Task Force was in fact a vote of no confidence in the institution. That’s why he brought it outsiders like Mutembo and Mark Chona. What they spent didn’t reflect their levels of success. They followed the long observed pattern of accusing FTJ of some crimes but the actual charges came out different. HH has already failed the litmus test and we won’t get anywhere with him. His belief that locking up of a few PF characters is the equivalent of a corruption fight doesn’t help matters. We’ll only gauge his performance the moment he’ll allow his Ministers and those close to him like the fertilizer supplier to be investigated

  8. Would you agree to this …………for our failure to deliver to the community who voted for us could be itself corrupting voters to give us a vote?

  9. Your deals with Vedanta and others, say it all. It might work if and only if you look honestly into yourself.

Comments are closed.

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