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Let Lungu account for his wealth, property

Kampamba Mulenga, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, says it is not true that Edgar Lungu came into State House a poor man; he had a life even before that.

Kampamba says it is wrong to insinuate that Edgar is building shopping malls and other property using taxpayers’ money. Mulenga has come to Edgar’s defence following Chishimba Kambwili’s charges last week that he was building several properties in Lusaka and challenged him to deny it. Kambwili challenged Edgar to explain the source of his wealth because he had all of a sudden embarked on huge construction projects around Lusaka and in Petauke.

But Kampamba says there was nothing wrong with Edgar owning property because he was a Zambian citizen who made money during his law practice before he became Republican President.
“What we must realise is that the President had a life before he became President. He is a lawyer. So questioning his capabilities because he is now the President is neither here nor there. What we must realise is that before the presidency, President Lungu is a very well educated man, he was a lawyer, so it is not like President Lungu just came in a poor man, no! We know lawyers are one of the most handsomely paid professionals in Zambia. This is not to say that President Lungu is building [shopping] malls through taxpayers’ money, it is not true. But questioning the aspect of whether President Lungu can own property, yes he is a Zambian. He is a Zambian entitled under the Constitution to own property, but it does not mean that when you own property, every property you own is coming from taxpayers money, it’s not true. President Lungu has clearly stated even before, that he was in business. It is not true that President Lungu came into State House a poor man, he is a lawyer by profession,” says Kampamba.

It’s not true that Edgar was doing very well financially as a lawyer before getting into government in 2011. For many years before he got into government, Edgar was living a very difficult life because his practicing licence as a lawyer had been withdrawn by the Law Association of Zambia after he was found guilty of squandering a client’s money. Edgar came into government a financially broken man. This is not a secret. It is common knowledge to all who knew Edgar.

It’s not difficult to ascertain what Edgar, his wife, children and other family members and associates owned before he got into government. It’s also not difficult to determine what wealth has been accumulated by Edgar, his family members and associates since he became President of the Republic in January 2015. In fact, his asset declarations for the 2015 and 2016 presidential elections tell a big story on their own. In less than a year of being president, Edgar’s declared wealth more than doubled.

Kambwili is not wrong in challenging Edgar to explain the source of his sudden wealth. The fast increase in Edgar’s net worth and that of his family members cannot be easily explained by earned incomes. And wealth that goes beyond one’s earned income calls for explanations. This is so because getting rich on unearned income is a prima facie case of corruption. And this is much more so if those constructing properties for Edgar and his family members are at same time the persons awarded government construction contracts.

No one is stopping Edgar from owning property. But where there are legitimate suspicions of him acquiring wealth through ways that seem to be corrupt, it is not wrong for any citizen to demand an explanation. Edgar is a public servant, and not a master. And every Zambian citizen is Edgar’s master, and where justifiable can call on him to account for the increase in his wealth that is beyond his earned income.
We think don’t this is something Kampamba can explain to the Zambian people on behalf of Edgar. Kampamba is working for the government and not Edgar. She is not Edgar’s private employee. Edgar should speak for himself on such matters. And moreover, can Kampamba really claim to know Edgar’s personal financial and business matters? Can Kampamba prove that the primary source of Edgar’s wealth is law practice income?

Again, returns and accounts can easily show what Edgar was earning as a lawyer. Transaction records can also show what properties and other wealth Edgar had before getting into government. From those to whom privilege and opportunity are given, we have the right to expect much.

When a leader is held accountable for his actions, his future actions will change. Bad behaviour only continues for those who allow it. Good relentlessly calls us to accountability, abjectly refusing to hand us free passes for unethical decisions. People who can’t be questioned often end up doing questionable things. Our leaders must learn to choose between lining their bank accounts and being accountable for our future.

Candor and accountability in a democracy is very important. Hypocrisy should have no place. Theodore Roosevelt said, “We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources.”

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