Zambia’s corrupt military

The arrest by the Drug Enforcement Commission of former Zambia Air Force commander Lt Gen Eric Chimese for various corruption-related offences falls perfectly well into a pattern that has emerged over last 28 years.

And Chimese is not the only General who should be arrested for corruption. Most of our generals are corrupt, they have become dealers, suppliers to the same military units they command.

Our military is no longer our pride. The dignity and respect of the military ended with the Kaunda regime. Today it is not difficult for crooks of all hues to get themselves to the topmost command positions in our military.

Look at the number of crooked generals who have been prosecuted and convicted for corruption over the last 18 years! And can Zambians go to sleep every night feeling safe?

Generals who can engage in such very high levels of corruption cannot be expected to protect us and our homeland!

Corruption in our military command contributes directly to the insecurity of our country. It has a corrosive effect on combat readiness and effectiveness, undermining the ability to meet national security threats.

Corruption is a major impediment to the development of our security sectors. Corruption in our military, intelligence, and police services is part and parcel of the highly entrenched patronage networks that exist in the political and economic system as a whole. It is also deeply embedded in the survival calculus of a regime that tends to be personality-driven and does not place much emphasis on building independent institutions.

These problems are multiplied in the military and security services because of the huge transactions involved, the secrecy requirements, and the sensitivities associated with national security – all of which reinforce the lack of transparency and accountability. There is, as a result, a significant amount of dysfunction in our military. Procurements are often conducted through personal, not professional channels. Procurements are not always matched to national security requirements.

There is a vast amount of waste in the allocation and management of our security resources, many of which are funneled for personal use or to the patronage system.

With resources misused in this manner security threats cannot be met because the resources applied to them are insufficient. These problems are compounded by poor planning. More often than not the ends (objectives), ways (courses of action), and means (resources) are mismatched, leading to a situation where equipment is obtained that is not well-suited to the types of threats the military is expected to face. The end results are military losses, more insecurity, and less development.

Resources are not only misused but also mismatched to the threat environment. As a result, the military posture itself becomes faulty.

Corruption leads to neglect of the importance of developing cohesion, professional command and control, and good management. When military professionalism is ignored and when military units become institutions in which political and personal loyalties and bribes become the basis for promotions, operational and strategic inefficiencies take root.

We all need to understand very clearly that there are very serious and long term operational costs of not tackling corruption head on in our military. And priority should be given to combating malfeasance in procurement and planning; developing appropriate skills and capabilities for planning and resource allocation; strengthening political will at the decision-making level. Our security agencies have deeply entrenched political interests.

There is a need for our politicians to understand that the security of our country and, by extension, their governance can be better guaranteed with more professional security services and sound practices of management.

Ours is a poor country with a poor military. But how can our generals afford to be so rich? They now seem to be competing with each other about who owns more expensive properties.

Who can have a military command of tamangas, tenderpreneurs and expect the nation to be at peace?

These military commanders are there to protect not only their own corruption but also that of the whole regime that has given them the opportunity to become rich. As such they are ready to participate in the rigging of elections and the suppression of legitimate public dissent. Don’t forget that the Zambia Air Force plays a very big unmonitored role in the conduct of elections in this country. They single-handedly transport ballot papers and election results. Can they be trusted?

What we are saying of the military can be said of the police, intelligence services and other related agencies of the state.

Which earned income did Chimese use to acquire all those very expensive properties – 13 fully furnished houses, one semi-detached house and a gym all within Lusaka?

It’s not unreasonable to view all these properties as proceeds of crime, corruption.

The problem many Zambians have with Chimese’s arrest is not about whether or not he is indeed corrupt; it’s about its timing and selectivity. Why arrest Chimese now? Does it mean it could not be seen that the values of Chimese’s properties were far beyond his earned income – a prima facie case of corruption – all along?

The issue of selectivity is being raised because all can see that most of our generals have wealth far beyond their earned income and are flaunting it.

Military commanders who can’t protect the very limited resources of the units they command cannot be expected to protect the nation from any danger.

These are not fit to be called generals. But can we expect to have a clean military command when the political leadership responsible for appointing it is itself corrupt and rotten to the core?

Gone are those Kaunda days when we had incorruptible generals – Chinkuli, Masheke, Mibenge and so on and so forth!

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