Saturday, July 20, 2024

Organised Looting of State Resources: Why is AG eager to award huge monetary damages to UPND members?

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By Fred M’membe President of the Socialist Party

In March 2022, 15 UPND cadres who were accused of burning Lusaka’s City Market took the State to Court demanding K8 Million in compensation for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In May, a UPND cadre who was accused of attempting to assassinate former President Lungu sued the State demanding compensation for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution amounting to K5 million.

In August this year, four UPND cadres sued the state in the Lusaka High Court seeking damages for false imprisonment under the PF on a charge of possession of offensive materials and weapons. This month, October, 22 UPND members who were arrested for unlawful assembly in April last year have sued the State in the Lusaka High Court demanding special damages for unlawful detention.

There are other suits too numerous to mention but the ending has usually been the same: consent judgements between the suing parties and the Attorney General followed by payment of huge sums of money from the treasury to those that had sued.

Why is Attorney General Mulilo Kabesha, who himself has known ties to the UPND, eager to award huge monetary damages through consent judgements to UPND members in all cases where such members, represented by UPND-aligned lawyers, have sued the state for malicious imprisonment unlawful detention or wrongful prosecution that occurred under the PF? Isn’t this a form of organised looting of state resources? What is preventing the Attorney General from defending the public interest by way of allowing these cases to proceed to trial where the petitioners’ claims can be put to the test or challenged? How does the public even know with certainty that these claimants exist and that they are not hired people masquerading as UPND cadres who are being used to reward party cadres or mobilise financial resources for the party?

Where is the new dawn they keep singing about? How different is this organised banditry from what the PF did with Lewis Mosho over the Shoprite case? Those who have followed these cases may note that so many have been filed, but usually only one at a time. A new one is only started after the existing case has been disposed of via a consent order. To our knowledge, not a single one of these cases has ever gone to trial. Why? Is the UPND indirectly fundraising for the party or ‘empowering’ its cadres using state resources?

There is a wider lesson here: the cost of appointing party loyalists to key government positions, the same thing that happened under the PF. The only difference is that the PF were more transparent about this practice. The UPND is doing the same but make it appear like they are hiring non-partisan professionals who are apolitical or not UPND-aligned. This is merely a smokescreen. Like the PS without portfolio Patrick Mucheleka at the Cabinet Office, Levy Ngoma, the Special Assitant to the President for Political Affairs, holds a position in the UPND leadership. How can these civil servants be expected to rise above their party interests in cases where these are threatened? Is it surprising that Levy, alongside the Home Affairs PS Josephs Akafumba, was implicated in a telephone scandal in a matter that involved the interests of the UPND as party and which had nothing to do with the public interest?

And even when the public complained about Levy’s conduct and abuse of state resources to advance the interests of the UPND, nothing happened to him because he was, as he said in the leaked audio, acting in furtherance of the interests of the ruling party and on the instructions of his principal. (And by the way, how far has the police gone with the investigations into the leaked audio scandal? It has been nearly ten months now! Or is the Inspector General of Police waiting for members of the public to share their findings on the case before Mr Lemmy Kajoba can claim credit and praise himself?)

The issue we raise of appointing party functionaries to important government positions that require independent-minded professionals is not a small matter. It is an important issue that is likely to assume even greater significance when appointments to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the leadership of both the civil service and the Electoral Commission of Zambia are made. Those in doubt that party functionaries will likely be appointed to these positions should wait for the long-delayed but the imminent announcement of the new DPP, ECZ CEO, ECZ chairperson and deputy chairperson and Secretary to Cabinet.

When one looks at positions such as Special Assistant to the President for Legal Affairs, Minister of Justice, Attorney General, Solicitor General, ACC Director General and even Speaker of the National Assembly, one will realise that these public positions are all filled with individuals who are linked to the UPND and possibly members. How can these be expected to retain fair or independent judgement and defend the public interest in matters that involve or affect UPND members? Can these officials really rise above their possible partisan interest and allegiance to the UPND since its potential loss of power would denote their own removal from these positions?

One just has to listen to the Minister of Justice whenever he speaks on issues of public interest that affect his party. He sounds like a UPND Secretary General! Can the current ACC Director General sanction the investigation of Maurice Jangulo’s company in relation to the procurement of fertiliser when Maurice has strong ties to the appointing authority, with whom the DG has very close client-patron ties stemming from their time in opposition? Is it any wonder that the ACC has never found any single case of corruption in this government? We know of the corruption involving some of the presidential aides at State House. If the ACC does not know, then they are simply not up to the challenge. If they know, how come they have not summoned those involved for interrogation? The only time the ACC should be taken seriously is when they start to touch members of the inner circle of this government. Look at the contradictions coming from the Attorney General’ office on the honeybee scandal! Why isn’t the ACC getting involved in this matter? Isn’t it because some of the culprits involved in the behind the scenes negotiations pertaining to honeybee are their colleagues at State House, even though some praise singers will falsely claim that it is actually State House that blocked the payment to honeybee?

Some of these officials we have mentioned above run law firms that are still doing business with government. Like their principal who has not only refused to publicly reveal his assets and declarations in the spirit of transparency but made it clear that his businesses are still doing business with the government, they don’t see any conflict of interest in their dealings. Take the current cases, for example. Those suing the State for malicious or wrongful prosecution are UPND cadres. Those representing the litigants are lawyers connected to the UPND. Those who have the responsibility to put up a fight on behalf of the state and in defence of public interest are connected to the UPND. Those deciding the huge amounts to be awarded to the petitioners are officials connected to the UPND. Doesn’t a consent order in this case benefit everyone involved: the cadres, the lawyers, the officials, and indeed the party, if some of these resources end up there? We are not saying those suing have no case. We are asking a simple question: can these officials really vigorously defend public interest against the ruling party members making the claims, even if these cases go to trial?

Zambia, we have been duped! These people in power today are not who they claim to be. They say one thing in private and another in public. They are wolves in sheep’s skin. The other problem is that many in civil society have been co-opted. With the exception of one or two people such as Brebner Changala, John Sangwa and Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, those from civil society who held to account or criticised the excesses of the previous administration are now serving in government bodies. With food in their mouth, they can no longer speak. Whenever they speak, it is to lead the choir of praise in such sycophantic fashion that they end up doing a disservice to those they support. Since they are incapable of embarrassment, one can only be embarrassed on their behalf. It is sad to see people with previously illustrious careers in civil society reduced to the role of praise singers.

The same problem of co-optation is noted in relation to Zambia’s public intellectuals. This group was instrumental in promoting progress and to political change prior to the 2021 election. By intellectuals, we do not mean those who display their educational attainments for anyone to see. We mean men and women attached to a university who have acquired a certain level of education that enables them to produce, disseminate and apply new knowledge to the analysis or resolution of the problems of society. Intellectuals who use this specialist knowledge to comment on public issues in their areas of specialisation through mass platforms such as newspapers, television or radio stations are called public intellectuals. Those who merely confine themselves to teaching and research in a university are called academics.

In many societies, especially those that place a premium on thinking, public intellectuals are role models. Since intellectuals play powerful legitimising role, their criticism of the government has implications for the standing of the government in the eyes of the public. In Zambia, intellectuals have been frustrated by poor conditions of service and their expertise has generally remained unsolicited and often underutilised. This may explain the extreme penchant, among our intellectual elite, for opportunism and willingness to be silenced in return for an appointment on a government board. So, when a few stand out and condemn injustices, that is worth celebrating.

Before 12 August 2021, there were several intellectuals who risked their careers and even lives to express outrage against the many wrongs that were happening under the previous government. There was Dr Grieve Chelwa from University of Cape Town, whose opposition to the economic reform measures sponsored by the IMF and World Bank was conveniently ignored and often frustrated. There were others like Ms Felicity Kayumba, Dr O’Brien Kaaba and Dr Pamela Sambo found in the School of Law at UNZA whose constant criticism of the judiciary and the executive were thought to be a matter of principle, not sheer opportunism. One or two such as Dr Julius Kapempwa and Dr Cleopas Sambo from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences provided illuminating insights that raised public awareness and fed greater understanding of the government’s policy failures.
And who can forget the courageous voice of Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa who was subjected to threats on his life, faced the threat of prosecution for sedition and was disowned by his employer, the University of Zambia, over his critical writings in both print and online media? There was also Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa at Zambia Open university and Professor Muna Ndulo in the United States of America who never missed an opportunity to criticise the government especially on matters that touch on human rights and the violation of the law. Even UNZALARU, the body of lecturers and researchers, at UNZA, recovered its voice and appeared to regain its lost credibility on matters of public interest such as Bill 10.

Which of these intellectuals who stuck their necks out to challenge undemocratic practices and confront human rights violations have continued with the same spirit or zeal of holding the government to power today? Except for one or two such as Dr Chelwa and Dr Sishuwa who continue to identify with the suffering of the people and have remained generally critical of the same things they condemned under PF, the intellectuals who previously spoke truth to power have become willing collaborators in the wrongs of the UPND. The record is there in the public domain for all to see. Today, most of these intellectuals have joined the incriminating silence of those who cannot speak with food in their mouth because they are enjoying the perks that come with serving on several government bodies, though they will go to great lengths to convince unsuspecting victims that it’s not about the money or that the money is actually very little.

Other intellectuals are now deathly silent and simply looking away when wrongs occur because of a certain allegiance to the party in power, one that has anointed itself with the sanctity of a religious faith. If some of the wrongs occurring in this government had happened under the previous administration, these intellectuals would have been in the forefront of speaking out against such vices. Can anyone imagine these academics keeping quiet under president Lungu if ordinary people were jailed for insulting the president, or PF cadres took turns to sue the state for malicious or wrongful prosecution under the MMD and the Attorney General rushed to reach a minimum of K500, 000 settlement with each of them and even more money paid to their PF aligned lawyers?

Those who yesterday were in the front seat of condemning wrongs and injustices whenever they occurred are the ones who are today giving legitimacy to and rationalising the wrongs and injustices of the UPND. Some within group even say, ‘things are not yet as bad as they were under PF’, as if the PF wrongs are now the threshold we must reach before raising our voice against injustices. Others shamelessly say ‘there is no county or government that is immune from wrong doers’! How can people lose their self-respect and dignity this way? Anyway, as former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki once said, empty stomachs can be good or bad teachers. The problem with our African intellectuals is that they too have stomachs, in addition to their excellent brains.

Who will defend public interest?

49 COMMENTS

  1. Well Said DrMmembe I have noted in the past few days how many arrests the ACC has made I have stated in my comments that the ACC director is a UPND sympathiser who was appointed to fix anyone who had links with PF .if he means well let him prove himself by touching on the fertiliser scandal which many citizens have reported on

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  2. We warned of an avalanche of cases against the state caused by lungus reckless arrests of anyone suspected of being UPND……………

    Blame the corrupt fraud convict lungu and his midget henchman kapoyongo………..

    Stop blaming the victims of lungu and kapoyongos barbaric reign…………

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    • Then let the cases go to trial!
      If PF wrongs become the benchmark for current government then where is the raised bar of leadership? When you are given a mandate by the people, smell the coffee and do what is right and good for the country. Stop feeding us with the hogwash of yester-year PF sins and serve the country.

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    • Going to trial for what ????

      To expose the victims to more trauma reliving the lungu
      brutality ??

      It should be lungu and kapoyongo Going to trial , not the victims

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  3. When we say we have a conman in state house some people doubt. The writing by Dr. Fred Mmembe has further amplified the position that we have currently a conman in the so called “New dawn Govt”. Perhaps we have miss understood the “new dawn” it is a sophisticated Organisation or mafias running our great nation. Their leader has flatly refused to declare his wealth as this might cast some doubts on how he amassed his wealthy. All in all we have a sophisticated conman. We will be left with only holes in our country once this conman leaves state house.

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  4. Dr Mmembe, imagine that you became a British citizen. You then found yourself being the Justice Secretary of His Majesty’s government. You are the first indigenous Zambian and African born outside the UK to hold the post. Throughout your life you have grown up believing that the UK wronged the people of Zambia and plundered the natural resources. Now you are Justice Secretary and then Zambian people have sued the UK government for reparations. What would you do?

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  5. Fred Meembe has his post newspaper closed by a brutal regime. in fact ECL was one time a lawyer for the post newspaper. Most of the former post newspapers workers were darlings in the former regime. Malupenga was a immediate subordinate for Fred. It is interesting to hear Fred talk of others when he was an architect of the former brutal regime. Fred Meembe lack the credibility , objectivivity and integrity to point an accusing finger to the new regime. He was untouchable under Sata reign and fell out form his ECL……
    If he has proof to show that the court is influenced by the Attorney general , he is at liberty to contest in our competent courts .

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    • So because he supported Sata, he’s got no right to call a wrong a wrong. As a free observer I don’t see anything different between the PF and Upnd… they are both brutal.
      The only difference is that Edgar was an outgoing type full of exuberance and exposed while his successor is the type that acts from behind the curtains like a prompter on a play stage…. he pretends not be either involved or aware of the breaches going.
      It was easier to connect Edgar to the lawlessness than it’s with HH.

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  6. Complete and utter rubbish by the anti Tonga tribalist, Fred Mmembe. The Attorney General does not have the power to award any sort of monetary damages to anyone. This is an action only a court can take. The court itself has to hold a trial. If the person suing for damages wins, then he can get the award he deserves. As far as the UPND members are concerned, I support their lawsuits. Let them and any other aggrieved parties sue. Hopefully the courts in Zambia are impartial, and if they find that the lawsuits are of merit, let them award the due compensation. It is not for Mmembe and his fellow tribalists to decide a legal petition in their rantings on online newspapers. I personally suspect that the UPND members have valid cases. The tribalist PF persecuted people from other areas of the…

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  7. The government was sued in the courts of law. If the judge rules in favour of the complainants how can the UPND be looting state funds.
    How many of the current high court judges were appointed by HH? Zero .
    Independent judges are doing their job after hearing evidence brought before them.

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    • So because he supported Sata, he’s got no right to call a wrong a wrong. As a free observer I don’t see anything different between the PF and Upnd… they are both brutal.
      The only difference is that Edgar was an outgoing type full of exuberance and exposed while his successor is the type that acts from behind the curtains like a prompter on a play stage…. he pretends not be either involved or aware of the breaches going.
      It was easier to connect Edgar to the lawlessness than it’s with HH.

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    • Read again. No judge ruled in favor of the complainant. The Attorney General entered into a consent with the complainant. It’s like entering a Nolle… the state withdraws the case for some reason.

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    • A CONSENT JUDGEMENT is equivalent to a SETTLEMENT in the American judicial system (I am sure it is the same in Canada where you are, going by the flag.) So none of these cases went to court before a Judge or Jurry to handout these amounts of money. And that’s the Crux of Fred M’mbe’s concerns! The AG has responsibility to lookout for the State’s, hence the public, interests all the time. So if these cases are just being settled left and right without being tested in court, how do we even know they are legit, or can even be supported by evidence, right??? And that’s what Fred is talking about here

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    • CONSENT JUDGEMENT is a judgment “issued by a judge” based on an agreement between the parties to a lawsuit to settle the matter, aimed at ending the litigation with a judgment that is enforceable.
      IN THE END, ITS THE JUDGE IS THE ONE ISSUES THE JUDGEMENT AND NOT THE AG

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    • @Independent: “If the judge rules in favour of the complainants…..”

      And what I’m saying to you is that a “Consent” judgment is NOT rendered by a Judge. The Judge only “RUBBER STAMPS” what the two parties have agreed upon, like you have rightly stated in your reply. Yes, the problem here is not UPND Cadres who are suing the State. Anybody has the right to file a lawsuit against the State if they feel aggrieved by the Govt. The problem is that the AG seems all too willing to settle these cases out of court without having them tested by way of evidence. Because, guess what, when UPND is done and out, all these people UPND/Govt is currently arresting/harassing will turn around and do the same when they have their cronies in Office and in these critical positions. And I hope all…

    • Continue…

      of you will be just as enthusiastic about this sort of rot as you are now. PF and its Cadres were just as harassed and jailed by MMD, but PF did not resort to frivolous lawsuits against the State when they got into Govt. So why is the current AG allowing this? That’s the question Fred Mmembe is asking.

    • What opportunity? You think he would win if he did? Those being compensated have not been awarded judgement by the courts otherwise the results could have been different.
      Read the whole article.

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    • Next time don’t just render support based on tribe…..

      Think of the arbitrary arrests that will have to be compensated from your tax money…………

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  8. Reading most of the above comments it shows the level of our ignorance.Dr Mmembe is simply exposing the white collar thieving going on where the judges are not involved but cases are concluded by the AG

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    • Surely now I understand why all presidents have been taking advantage of us….. people support without logic. Here government has decided to award their cadres. This is like you assault someone but instead going to court you settle the matter between yourselves…. you give the injured some money as agreed upon… but someone can’t see the trickery here.

    • Very good………….

      Next time don’t abuse your authority by wanton arrests of those you think are a political threat………

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  9. This is one messenger we should always shot. A man with a crooked poisonous history and his own designs and obsession with getting to state house can never provide objective criticism of the government of day. He wants real disinterested observers to see wrong where there is none or at least where they are allowing a grace period before unleashing their firepower.

    Did this M’membe herd and spoon-feed the patriotic public intellectuals what to say before? No. They helped boot out PF minus M’membe’s self serving advice.

    It must be getting pretty lonely being Mr. Sour Grapes.

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  10. It must be getting pretty lonely being Mr. Sour Grapes.

    Did this M’membe herd and spoon-feed the patriotic public intellectuals what to say before? No. They helped boot out PF minus M’membe’s self serving advice.

    This is one messenger we should always shot. A man with a crooked poisonous history and his own designs and obsession with getting to state house can never provide objective criticism of the government of day. He wants real disinterested observers to see wrong where there is none or at least where they are allowing a grace period before unleashing their firepower.

    • Yes………very good.

      Next time you support a brutal corrupt thieving GRZ……..

      Think of your tax payers money that will be paid out to compensate victims……….

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  11. You were not paying tax obligations to government for your newspaper and you should appear holy now. The biggest regret is that I read your whole article, looking who is talking on moral issues

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  12. Deja Vu.Cadre or no cadre,the plaintiffs human rights enshrined in the constitution were severely and recklessly infriged by the state and are demanding compensation.There is always.People like you who think life and property rights can be messed with with impunity.A consent jugdement is like a dispute settled out of court but it does not take effect without adjudication of a court.Dont ask people to read between the lines things that are not there.Learn a lesson:Infringing human rights is costly!That why new dawn seems to be moving slow,It is the rule of law.not men

    • You are deliberately missing the point… what will you say if the Upnd gets out of power and the people it’s detaining get awarded by the new government…. the point is the there’s been no judgement and your government has taken the surest way of paying the victims.
      Yes it’s people like me.. call me what you want but I use logic in argument…if a court had made judgement either way then Mmembe would be talking nonsense.

    • UPND GRZ are only arresting those who can’t prove their wealth…….

      There is no political arrests under this GRZ……

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  13. Wolves in sheep skin? No they are Wolves in wolf skin. We could see from kilometers away that HH would raid our coffers. He couldn’t explain his wealth and cannot up to now.

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  14. I do not see why victims of Lungu and Kampyongo and overall PF injustices should not seek compensation. The law should be changed so that the party in govt is made personally liable for the compensation. Unfortunately it is govt treasury that has to pay those compensations.
    Ba Meembe stop acting like you are being smart. You know the injustices inflicted on UPND and it’s sympathisers. There are outstanding payments that may seem outrageous but are within the law; like is it K15m to Prof Clive Chirwa for wrongful dismissal.

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    • Ndine(15) Correct.Deja Vu is speaking as If a consent judgement is not a legal princpal and tenent.As if a consent judgement is ilegal….Shoking.

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    • Coming to think about it, wasn’t this same Meembe and his fellow PF truckers that sabotaged Clive Chirwa’s master plan of revamping Zambia Railways.

  15. Very long but empty write up. So you want the president to shy away from appointing his own confidants and opt to appoint your socialist and pf loyalists??? to you President HH is less human to PF that placed their own as stated in their party constitution from cleaners to the topmost??? Let it be known to you that UPND reserves it’s right to appoint individuals of their choice to any position as mandated by zambians following August 12th elections of 2021. Stop these your empty schemes.

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