THE fight against corruption was compromised the day President Lungu directed his ministers not to pay back salaries and allowances they received during their illegal stay in office despite a court order, says Vincent Chaile. Commenting on President Edgar Lungu’s warning during the International Anti-Corruption Day that perpetrators of corruption would face the full wrath of the law, regardless of their status in society, Chaile said the Head of State had three more years to prove he meant what he said.
On Sunday, President Lungu said he could not trivialise the commemorate anti-corruption day by making it political because the consequences of corruption were too ghastly.
“This is not time for hypocrisy [but] it’s time to address the issue of corruption. Corruption is recognised globally as one of the biggest threats to attaining sustainable development goals,” he said.
President Lungu claimed that Zambia, under the auspices of the PF government, was committed to fighting corruption.
“My government continues to prioritise the fight against corruption, with the knowledge that without dealing with this problem our numerous development programmes will be jeopardised. Corruption robs the country of its wealth and developmental prospects,” he underscored.
“Perpetrators of corruption will face the full wrath of the law, regardless of their status in society. This is not mere rhetoric [but] real word coming from my heart and the heart of our government – no one is above the law. But let me emphasise that we will not politicise the fight against corruption.”
President Lungu also said he was aware that a lot of criminals found solace and comfort in identifying themselves with the ruling party but that such would not insulate such people from prosecution.
“We have reached a stage where people admire criminals! We have reached a stage where people say ‘I wish I was like that man’ regardless of how he acquired his wealth…” he said.
President Lungu noted that the theme called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders in combating corruption as a sure way of achieving the desired results.
“Individual, uncoordinated efforts will spell doom for us to achieve our desired results in combating corruption,” he said. “We must therefore, all stand together and pull in one direction. We must be united in voice, strategy and action, with unity of purpose, with one vision, and one goal.”
President Lungu said his government would do its part to attain a corruption-free Zambia by rendering the necessary support to the fight against corruption, and to the institution mandated to lead the fight against graft.
“Institutions, both public and private, let us do more. The media let us use our pens, cameras, microphones and all necessary tools to do more. Let us all do more, even at individual level,” said President Lungu “The fight against corruption begins with me, it begins with you. Are you doing enough? Do you reject corruption and report it to necessary authorities? Or are you that person who only complains about corruption and does nothing about it? What more can you do? That is the challenge I pose to you today. Let us all unite against corruption, for the attainment of the much desired corruption-free Zambia.”
But Chaile, the Radical Revolutionary Party president, wondered if President Lungu was sincere with his pronouncements. He noted that since he became President, none of his ministers mentioned in various corruption reports have been fired apart from those eyeing the PF presidency.
“The fight against corruption was compromised the day President Lungu directed his ministers not to pay the salaries and allowances accrued during the illegal stay in office despite the court order,” Chaile said. “It is good that President Edgar Lungu has come out in the open and condemned corruption in its strongest terms. It is good that President Lungu has realised that corruption is a cancer that has deprived poor Zambians of basic necessities. But was the President sincere with his pronouncements at the International Anti-Corruption Day? Since President Edgar Lungu became President, none of his ministers has been fired on corruption apart from those eyeing presidency within PF.”
Chaile said many people were on record calling for President Lungu to fire those cited in various corruption report but to no avail. He said it was not the first time the Auditor General’s report had published alarming levels of corruption but regretted that the President had shown a weak or lukewarm stance on the reports.
“We are on record demanding that some ministers from the President’s Cabinet be relieved of their duties on allegation of corruption to pave way for investigations but the President has given it a blind eye,” said Chaile.
“The President has three more years to prove to the nation that he meant what he said about the fight against corruption. Firing junior officers in the different government ministries is not a sign of fighting corruption. The question we need to ask ourselves is, if juniors can steal with impunity what more the permanent secretaries and or ministers?”