It will not be wrong for anyone to accuse Edgar Lungu of shielding his aide Dr Simon Miti from being arrested and prosecuted for corruption.
If Dr Miti was an opposition member or sympathiser he would be by now appearing in court on corruption charges. But because he is close to Edgar there’s hesitation to have him arrested. Who will move to arrest him? Can the current leadership of the Anti Corruption Commission, on its own, move to arrest Dr Miti? We doubt it!
Amos Chanda, the press aide to Edgar, says: “…the Presidency has taken a ‘no position’ because the matter is very delicate and unprecedented. This is an interesting situation; Dr Miti is not before court but the court has made pronouncements on him. In the interest of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, and the judiciary and the legislature on the other hand…the President is very cautious to make any form of intervention so for now, he is just waiting to see what happens because this decision by the magistrate is without precedent, its unprecedented. Dr Miti is not before the court, either as suspect or as a witness but those pronouncements have been made on him. So we have taken a no position as a result because it’s a very delicate matter and it’s unprecedented. In short, the President has no position on the matter…”
Ummm! Since when did Edgar and his minions start respecting the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers? Isn’t it this same Amos who was threatening judges with Kenyan-like reforms of the judiciary?
And Edgar himself has personally threatened of chaos if the Constitutional Court will rule against him in the case of his third term presidential bid. Where was the separation of powers? Wasn’t this a delicate matter?
And what is delicate about arresting Dr Miti? When did Dr Miti become the executive? Being an aide to Edgar doesn’t make Dr Miti a member of the executive. Dr Miti doesn’t have presidential immunity. He is not a small president. Dr Miti can be arrested and prosecuted without much ado.
Last week, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court ordered the arrest of Dr Miti “in the interest of justice” to answer to corruption related charges brought out at the time he served as Ministry of Health permanent secretary.
Choma-based magistrate Exnorbit Zulu, who was sitting in Lusaka, said it was not too late to arrest Dr Miti and present him before court to also answer to the corruption-related charges.
Magistrate Zulu said this after convicting former Ministry of Health human resources officer Henry Kapoko and others for theft of over K6.8 million public money when they were employees of the Ministry at the time Dr Miti was permanent secretary.
He further said Dr Miti should answer to corruption charges because he was aware of what was transpiring in the Ministry, although he feigned ignorance.
Magistrate Zulu said Dr Miti was an accomplice and that was the reason when the State brought him as a witness, he expressed ignorance on the happenings because he had an interest to serve.
Edgar’s shielding of Dr Miti highlights the vulnerability of this government to accusations of corruption at a time when it hopes to restore confidence and revive the economy in its worst position since 1991.
For a president who hates corruption, what the magistrate said is enough to have Dr Miti dismissed.
Anyway, Dr Miti is safe as long as Edgar is President. But change could make it more difficult for Dr Miti to escape criminal prosecution.
Edgar has never been serious about fighting corruption. Under Edgar the Anti Corruption Commission is for the protection and clearing of his aides and other associates from corruption accusations. It is only used as a prosecution agency when Edgar wants to harass and humiliate his political opponents.