By Venus N Msyani
Every time he holds a press conference, President Hakainde Hichilema has been announcing a new approach rather plan in the fight against corruption. So far, no plan has worked for him.
Last Friday, December 22, Hichilema held end of year 2023 press conference in the capital Lusaka that lasted for almost four hours. Breaking a record in Zambia history.
The struggling Southern Africa nation leader revealed a new plan in the fight against corruption: “Corruption fight continue. I know some thought it is losing theme; we are working, we are working.” President Hichilema said after a long pause from several minutes of talking.
“Minister of justice is there; we have just passed two pieces of legislation.” Hichilema added and asked Justice Minister Mulambo Haimbe to remind him what they are.
After a brief interaction with the minister, the president resumed addressing the people on the subject in a tone that the author is finding hard to punctuate.
“Three laws I signed yesterday, just yesterday these three laws, thank you, thank you minister. And these three laws now allow us to do things we were not able to do in the last two years and four months.
You will see speed now in the fight against corruption. You will see amendments; procedures being amended. Because the law has been amended, now procedures such as if you are engaged in corruption going forward.
Before it took twenty years. There is a case which was only concluded, which started under the late Mwanawasa. It was only concluded this year. You can count years.
With those three pieces of legislation which were standing in the way and the accompanying procedures now that will be done operating procedures guidance note. If you engage yourself in corruption or you did, you will now be tried within five months.” In his own words optimistic appearing Hichilema narrated.
If he is paying attention, by now Hichilema would know that it is not speed that is making people lose confidence in the fight against corruption. It is a generated debate behind it.
The question is being asked. President Hichilema preaches transparency and accountability in the fight against corruption, why is he is refusing to publicly declare assets and liabilities? Lack of a convincing answer to the question is no doubt what is hindering the progress in the fight against corruption.
Many believe the fight is a scam; meant to silence the main opposition Patriotic Front (PF) party officials. Most of who are alleged to own properties believed to be proceeds of corruption.
If is true the idea is to silence the opposition, the three passed laws are self-sabotage. Current government officials’ corruption scandals have started overshadowing previous government scandals. It will be very challenging for the new dawn administration to apply these laws in a nonselective way.
To make the matter worse, the president himself is being perceived a suspect because he is refusing to publicly declare assets and liabilities. Applying these laws selectively will definitely recharge demand for him to disclose his assets.
The point is, the fight against corruption starts with transparency and accountability. Hichilema must publicly declare assets and liabilities to start with. Otherwise, all plans will continue to fail.