President Lungu’s Mind on Corruption
-By Mwikisa Nabita-
Every reasonable citizen would expect a President of a country to be on higher moral ground, transparent, to have Integrity, accountable and having the interest of the nation at heart, at the minimum. It has become easy for anyone with a pulse to know the mind of the Zambian President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, concerning corruption in the country without having him saying much about it.
Many people have looked forward to President Lungu unplug himself and clearly state his mind on the subject in view of the many allegations of rampant theft, clear corruption, banditry, Chinese bribes, overpriced contracts and now Mukula tree logging under his watch. To this end we have not heard his clear thoughts or action in the way of fighting corruption.
To help us understand President Lungu now, we need to remember that he took over the reign of Government after the passing of President Michael Chilufya Sata in 2015 after winning a Presidential election. President Lungu in the 2015 campaigns did not want to change anything from how President Sata had campaigned to win the previous elections. He ended up saying in one campaign that he had no vision except to continue from where President Sata had ended. This statement, obviously, ended up being political capital for his political opponents.
In the 2011 – 2-16 PF Manifesto, which President Sata used and won an election, in talking about corruption, the PF party accused the MMD Government of giving the corruption fight lukewarm attention and support. The PF party said the Anti-Corruption Commission which was established to fight corruption, under MMD, has been characterized by selection prosecution of suspects which has eroded public confidence in the institution due to lack of independence and autonomy.
The 2011-2016 PF Manifesto states, on pages 45 and 46, that to fight corruption and restore public confidence in the Anti-Corruption Commission the PF Government shall:
- Ensure that members of the supervisory board are ratified by the National Assembly
- Re-instate the abuse of office provision in the Anti-Corruption Commission Act
- Ensure that the Anti-Corruption Commission submits periodic reports to the National Assembly for consideration and direction
- Enhance the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission to prosecute white collar crime by establishing a specialized wing
- Increase budgetary allocation to the Anti-Corruption Commission
- Introduce stiff penalties for corruption offences
- Domesticate international protocols on the fight against corruption
This is the extent to which the PF party reached to talked about how they were going to fight corruption in Government. This is the Manifesto that President Michael Chilufya Sata used and won an election. President Lungu, now, promised not to change anything but continue to govern from where President Sata ended. It is noteworthy that the PF Government has still not enhanced the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission to prosecute white crime by establishing a specialize wing but has still paid lukewarm attention and support to corruption. This time still the Anti-Corruption Commission, like in the MMD Government, is only pursuing the individuals who have expressed their minds against the governance style of the President and corruption in PF Government. And this is not edifying.
President Lungu never campaigned on corruption at any point. He never said what he was going to do to corrupt people in the government or anywhere for that matter. It should not surprise anyone therefore that he has failed to react to the many allegations of corruption in his own government. All we have heard him say is that he was going to fire corrupt ministers and no action has followed the statement. In comparison to late President Mwanawasa, who may not have talked corruption in his campaigns, President Lungu is so inept in fighting corruption. President Mwanawasa rose up and fought corruption in his reign when allegations started flowing of corruption in his and past government and he decided to part ways with his good friend Dr FTJ Chiluba because of corruption fight.
It was not until the President made that jaw-dropping Bemba idiom to the PF senior party and Government stalwarts on 10th February 2018, Saturday night at a PF fundraising function on the Copperbelt that the lid was completely open for anyone to read the mind of the President on this matter. Not talking about the runaway mouth, he now seems to have when he has a microphone. Immediately the news was reported the reaction it received was a furious one. The words of the idiom are “Uubomba mwibala, alya mwibala” and on this occasion the President added another statement to clearly qualifying what he was talking about, “Nomba tabatile ati kulya kumo nembuto”. The first idiom means “Those who work in the field, eg groundnut field, eat from the field”. This statement in the Bemba language has always been used to encourage pilfering. In the example of a groundnut field, it has meant you should be eating some while you are harvesting the nuts. In the video the President said he was going to repeat a statement he had said two days past, meaning it made sense to him to repeat it to this audience.
The bemba speaking people immediately cried foul to have a President who could use such an Idiom to his party and government workers and they asked him to apologies. It filled them with deep consternation to realize that this is a President the country has. The stress was palpable. It could not be blamed on the fact that he is not bemba himself and may not know what it meant. It is an established fact that President Lungu grew up in the streets of the Copperbelt and most often that not he uses Bemba much.
I have personally waited to hear his party spokesperson, I mean Sunday Chanda himself a Bemba, to defend the statement but he has not. The other Bemba stalwarts such as Mr Frank Bwalya have not come up either to help explain the statement to the public. Mr Frank Bwalya knows a lot of Bemba Idioms. He is a man who carried a big bent sweet potato (it looked tasty, I must confess) to court to explain his point in his case against President Sata when he called him “Chumbu munshololwa”.
President Lungu declared his net worth to stand at K2 million when he contested the 2015 Presidential election and a few months later when contesting the 2016 election he declared his net worth standing at K27million. Is it possible for a President in the third world to multiply his wealth this much when he is not known to be in any serious business?
Clearly President Lungu has accommodated and entertained corruption in his government, if he is not involved in it himself. He is accused of corruption himself. He is accused to be building properties everywhere and if that is from proceeds of corruption is yet to be seen.
What should worry every reasonable person now is whether the country has a President who has integrity, who is accountable and transparent and has the interest of the nation at heart. It is not helping the country to have senior party leaders who have worked with him and now differed with him calling him corrupt. The Deputy President of an opposition party called him a thief and challenged the President to take him to court, so he could bring out his evidence. Zambia has trodden this path before and it is not edifying.