The debate on the need for President Hakainde Hichilema to publicly declare his assets as he fights corruption has continued with the State House declaring that the head of state has fulfilled the legal requirement of declaring assets and liabilities.
Last Friday, during a live interaction with the public on Hot FM radio at State House, President Hichilema disclosed that he still maintains interests in his businesses.
Some stakeholders in the promotion of good governance have been asking President Hichilema to declare his assets to prove his integrity in the fight against corruption.
In a recent article, good governance commentator Venus N Msyani pointed out that it is wrong that Zambians don’t know which companies, businesses, or assets belonged to President Hichilema.
But Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya on Tuesday issued a statement defending President Hichilema and emphasised that he has fulfilled the legal requirement of declaring assets and liabilities.
Mr. Bwalya said individuals or organisations are free to request relevant record-keeping institutions for them to go through the President’s assets and liabilities declarations made under the law.
He said the President will keep championing enhanced transparency and accountability as key pillars of bringing back integrity to public service.
“It is unfair political criticism for anyone to accuse President Hakainde Hichilema of falling back on this promise of transparency when the President had fulfilled every asset and liabilities declarations required of him at law. The Electoral Process Act, 2016, Part IV, section 30 (1) (c) is very clear and instructive, in that it obligates any individual wanting to contest the office of President, to declare their assets and liabilities in full, and that President Hichilema has fully complied with this legal requirement,” Mr. Bwalya stated.
“May I add, that, there is nothing precluding any individual or organization, from requesting to peruse through the President’s asset and liabilities declarations made under the law, from the relevant records-keeping institution. The President will keep championing enhanced transparency and accountability as key pillars of bringing back integrity to public service and enhancing how public servants and institutions serve the wider masses,” he said.
In March, 2022, the Constitutional Court dismissed a matter in which Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo petitioned it over ECZ’s failure to publish assets declared by President Hakainde Hichilema when he filed nominations prior to the August 12 polls.
The court said it does not condone the targeting of one candidate, adding that Tembo should have targeted or cited all the 16 presidential candidates who took part in the 2021 presidential elections, including himself and not just President Hichilema.
In this matter, Tembo who cited ECZ and the Attorney General as respondents was seeking a declaration that the commission’s failure to publish the statutory declaration of assets and liabilities for the Head of State in the August elections contravened the constitution and was illegal.
He was further seeking a declaration that ECZ discloses the assets declared by President Hichilema when filing in his nomination papers.
But in a majority judgement read by Master of the Court, Mable Njekwa Mwaba, on behalf of Constitutional Court judges; Mungeni Mulenga, Palan Mulonda, Martin Musaluke and Mathews Chisunka, the court said the declaration which Tembo was seeking concerning President Hichilema could not be granted because the conduct did not contravene Article 52 (3) of the Constitution.
The court noted that the PEP leader just targeted one person instead of all the 16 presidential candidates, including himself.
Meanwhile, Constitutional Court judge Professor Margaret Munalula delivered a dissenting judgement, saying although she agreed with the majority judgement that ECZ did not breach the constitution, the commission and the Attorney General, who were aware of the different provisions of the law in relation to the Constitution and Electoral Process Act should have caused for the amendment of the law before the holding of the 2016 and 2021 general elections.
Meanwhile, the debate on the need for Mr. Hichilema to publicly declare his assets is not new.
In June 2016, former Katuba UPND Member of Parliament Jonas Shakafuswa observed that there was a possibility that the assets and liabilities declared by Mr. Hichilema to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in that year could have been undervalued.
Mr Hichilema declared a total of K73 million as value of his assets and liabilities prior to the 2016 Election, while during the 2015 presidential by-election he declared a total of K63.9 million.
Mr Shakafuswa said the UPND leader then was “a very rich man”.