They’re abusing the intelligence services

Chief Mukuni says state intelligence operatives have been trailing him and have attempted to use him in their schemes to harm Hakainde Hichilema.

It cannot be denied that the nation’s intelligence services are being abused by Edgar Lungu to serve narrow, personal political interests. And this is made easy by the fact that the intelligence services of this country seriously lack public accountability. Unlike in other countries where a strong committee of parliament provides a political oversight on the work of the intelligence services, ours is literally only accountable to one – the President.
But these abuses are not new. This is the way things have been and have continued to be. The intelligence service is an extremely important state institution that has been abused by those in power in this country. Those in power have often tried to use the intelligence services to do wrong things. They have used the intelligence services to harass and intimidate their political opponents, to abuse and steal public funds and sometimes even to try and rig elections.
It requires little memory, if a little is all one has, to remember how under Fredrick Chiluba, the intelligence bank accounts were abused to do all sorts of wrong things. It was the intelligence bank accounts that Chiluba used to bribe weak judges like then chief justice Matthew Ngulube.

Under Edgar Lungu, the intelligence was made to work with Timor Consulting, an Israeli firm that helped the Patriotic Front, to ‘win’ last year’s elections. Is this the way it is supposed to be? Since when did the Zambia Intelligence Services become part of the ruling party? Why should the intelligence services be part of the Patriotic Front election campaigns?
Again, this is not strange. This is the way the intelligence has been operating. If anyone refuses to do as the President wants, they are quietly kicked out.
There are many wrong things this regime is involving the intelligence in. We seem to forget things easily. We seem to have forgotten how Chiluba abused the intelligence to steal and to commit all sorts of crimes and abuses. At the hands of the intelligence, many innocent Zambians lost their lives. There was a time under the Chiluba regime when the intelligence service had become a killing machine. And instead of promoting and defending the interests and rights of citizens, our intelligence services had been busy aiding, promoting and defending corruption and abuses of citizens’ rights. They know what is going on. They know all the corruption and other abuses that are taking place in this country. And in many cases, intelligence officers are made to facilitate the corruption, abuses. Is this the role of our intelligence services? Look at how quickly senior intelligence officers become rich in this country! They are rewarded for abetting and protecting corruption, abuses. They know all the corruption and abuses that are going on and in some way, they have been made part of it.  They know what is going on but they have simply chosen to become accomplices because it is beneficial to do so.

An intelligence service that promotes and defends corruption and abuse of power does not deserve the respect of the people.
And our people don’t seem to learn. It is hardly 17 years since the Zamtrop scandal that led to the prosecution of Chiluba and his tandem of thieves, which included many very senior public servants and some private sector individuals.
Never in the history of this country had we seen so many defence and security personnel and those working at State House become so rich or affluent. Most of those who served as commanders for the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force and the Zambia National Service under the presidency of Chiluba ended up facing corruption charges in our courts of law. Some of our people started referring to Chiluba, who was the commander-in-chief, as the commander-in-stealing. The abuses started with him and went down to the lowest officer. Chiluba’s criminal mind contaminated not only our defence and security agencies but the entire government or state system.

Looking at what is going on today, it would appear there are no real insights into the lessons of the abuses of the intelligence services that characterised the Chiluba regime. We still don’t seem to have put aside our fascination and attraction to the power of the presidency and the intelligence services. It is still very attractive for those in power to abuse that power in a corrupt and tyrannical manner. If any lessons should have been learnt from this, it is the value and necessity of using power in a way that is self-limiting and modest. We have consistently advised that the use of power must be a constant exercise of self-limitation and modesty. But that advice seems to be falling on deaf ears. At the rate things are going, members of this regime may end up finding themselves in a much worse situation than Chiluba was in. They don’t seem to have limits.

But as for our intelligence services and other security agencies, there is need to realise that they work for the state and not for the ruling party or for a sitting president. And the ruling party and its president do not constitute the state. If anything, our intelligence and security services have a duty to protect the people from the abuses of power or excesses of the sitting president and his ruling party.
Good intelligence services always find ways of stopping the wrongdoings, abuses or excesses of those in power. Sometimes they have precipitated crisis by leaking to the press the wrongdoings.

We seem to have an intelligence service that is not only failing to protect the state and the people from the corruption and abuses of those in power, but is also a participant or an accomplice in the wrongdoing, the corruption and abuses. Where does this leave us as a nation?
The money being spent on trailing chief Mukuni could certainly be put to better use by the intelligence services.


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