Sacred corruption for sacred ministers

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One of the reasons why Presidents have so much power,
‘unlimited’ privileges and immunity, is because they are
expected to have good judgment. Those who draft constitutions
and those who enact laws expect that the powers they bestow on
a sitting Head of State would be used to the benefit of all
citizens.

For example, when the Constitution says all power over land is
vested in the hands of the Republican President, it does not
mean that the incumbent President owns every plot, farm and
bush territory in the country. It simply means that the
President is expected to protect all land from abuse, for the
benefit of his people. In essence, the President is merely a
signatory to its administration, but all land actually belongs
to the people. Therefore, it would be immoral for a sitting
Head of State to wake up one morning and decide which piece of
land to give away and which one to repossesses.

In the same vain, Presidents superintend over the wealth of a
country with a huge expectation from citizens that they would
commandeer the use of public resources with a great sense of
responsibility. A President needs to ensure that all
expenditure is of benefit to the people. The fact that a
sitting President can order his Cabinet to spend money on a
particular project, does not mean that the money belongs to
him. He can hold the keys to the treasury, through his Minister
of Finance, but the funds belong to the people he governs,
including borrowed money. Therefore a President cannot wake up
and decide which expenditure should be accounted for and which
one should be ignored; that must be left to the people who
entrusted him with the key to the country’s public resources.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in our country. In Zambia,
our President decides how public money should be spent and
dictates how much of it should be accounted for. That is why
President Edgar Lungu is at pains to see so many Zambians
demanding accountability and transparency in the fire tender
scandal, the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and the RTSA/Lamise
contract. Our President is frustrated because he doesn’t want
these government deals to be accounted for, since they directly
or indirectly, involve people he knows.

“In the last one month there has been this hype about
corruption. Especially in the aftermath of the much talked
about fire tenders. My ministers and permanent secretaries are
now scared of making decisions for fear of being accused of
corruption. I cannot take it anymore”, President Lungu said.

We found it utterly strange that this statement was coming from
our Head of State, but what made it worse was his complaint
that the Anti Corruption Commission was delaying to deal with
one individual who was linked to corruption.

“I received a report of wrong doing on the part of one minister
and I told ACC ‘you can go ahead and deal with this matter’. Up
to now they have not dealt with the matter and I want to find
out why,” said President Lungu.

In other words, our Head of State wants the ACC to deal with an
individual like Chishimba Kambwili who was accused of
corruption but not the other names which the Zambians want
probed. He wants Kambwili to be investigated expeditiously, but
Stephen Kampyongo must not be touched despite being linked to
corruption in the fire tender acquisition. Why? This is a
careless way of looking after a country’s wealth. All the money
that is used on government contracts belongs to the People of
Zambia; it does not belong to President Lungu or his family and
friends. Therefore if Zambians say, ‘we want this contract to
be probed or cancelled’, giving all the reasons to support
their demands, a responsible Head of State must listen. But our
President is stubborn. Instead of supporting accountability, he
is complaining that his ministers are failing to make decisions
because of the numerous corruption allegations. How can they
fail to make decisions if those decisions would benefit the
citizens? Why are they paralised if they are innocent?

In fact, it is very strange that our President says he cannot
take the accusations any more, when he is the one who started
the corruption allegation against his own ministers on October
31, 2016.
“I have seen an increase in corruption among Cabinet Ministers,
yet our people are suffering. There are constant deposits in
people’s bank accounts of huge sums of money on a daily basis.
I would urge you (the new Ministers) to desist, to resist the
temptation, not to go that way. Very soon I will be firing some
Ministers…”

This is what President Lungu said last year, so why is he
complaining now that Zambians have joined him in demanding for
the removal of corrupt ministers? If Kambwili was corrupt, it
is good that he was fired. But there is no good or bad
corruption. There is no such thing as sacred corruption for a
good cause; it is all theft. Therefore if Kampyongo is corrupt,
he must also go, regardless of how useful he is to the ruling
party.

President Lungu must not stop the Zambian people from crying,
because it is their money. He must let them question every
decision made by a Minister, Permanent Secretary or indeed
himself. It is him who announced to the people of Zambia that
his ministers were corrupt; that they were banking huge volumes
of money and acquiring unexplained wealth. So how can he go
back to the citizens and say, “your accusations are paralysing
my government?”

You work with the ministers, you live next to them and you have
access to their bank accounts. So if you say they are thieves,
we believe you and warn everyone else. When you tell your
neighbours that my children are prostitutes, you cannot go back
to condemn them when they start spreading the news
that bana baba Lungu nima hule.

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