ACTIONAID says disciplinary measures for junior officers add up to nothing when the hatchery of corruption is still heavily protected. Commenting President Edgar Lungu’s recent address to Parliament on progress made in application of national values and principles, ActionAid stated that if leaders had difficulties to uphold the tenets of democracy and the Constitution, which they swore to protect, it portrays authoritarianism and a departure from principles of democracy.
ActionAid stated that it was strange to see the casual approach and lip service that was exhibited by President Lungu throughout the speech on the negative impact of corruption.
“It is, therefore, imperative that our people actively participate in the economic, social, cultural and political processes that affect their daily lives. This was well echoed by the President in his speech by acknowledging the negative impact of corruption. Just when we expected the President to make transformative commitments, especially at the height of many allegations of corruption that involve high political figures in the country, what we heard was the usual rhetoric about commitment to fight corruption and yet no actions are seen to be supporting that,” it observed.
“If truly we detest corruption, our commitment should be seen in action and not just in speeches. We challenge the President to talk about actions government has undertaken pointing to that and not giving figures of alleged discrimination of targeted individuals in the name of corruption. Disciplinary measures for junior officers add up to nothing when the hatchery of corruption is still heavily protected. We expected the President to respond from a moral point of view what is patriotic about alleged abuse of government resources; what patriotism is about abusing young people in the name of cadres to cause violence and anguish among citizens. We expected the President to demonstrate morality in failure to fulfill campaign promises of lower taxes, which was the PF campaign signature and yet we have experienced unprecedented rise in taxes all aimed at satisfying personal interests. We expected the President to explain his ‘intelligent’ decision to fail to relieve a minister who has been arrested for corruption and is undergoing corruption investigations. What is ethical about protecting such? What is ethical about holding on to public office when charges of corruption have been leveled against you?”
ActionAid further noted the shrinking civic and democratic space in the country. It stated that Zambia had experienced the worst form of intimidation by leaders in the recent past based on political affiliation or having dissenting views. ActionAid noted that there had been serious attempts to close down civil society organisations’ spaces to avoid government being held accountable.
“Additionally, the media has not been spared. We have seen a growing trend of threats on media houses. We have seen Human Rights Defenders being harassed on flimsy grounds, students alike. We have seen how some of these maneuvers have robbed this country of the spirit of activism all because leaders want to hold on to power by avoiding accountability. What morality is there in arresting innocent citizens simply because they are exercising their fundamental rights?” it wondered.
ActionAid stated that it expected the President and his government to have a broader perspective in their quest to regulate the media.
“We can only agree with the President’s report that we are making strides in promoting morality and ethics in our nation if these connotations are simplified from an ethical and moral perspective. Whilst we agree with the President on his point on the role of the media in building our nation and influence on the moral and ethical conduct of our people, we find these sentiments lopsided,” it stated. “We would like government to examine itself in the manner they use public media whose mandate is not only to act as a mouthpiece for government but a public facility that should serve the interests of all stakeholders regardless of their political affiliations. What we see is news coverage that is one sided and largely covers the ruling party and with limited coverage of other political players. Are there no opposing views about the way government does its business? The only time you will hear about the opposition is to portray the negative side. Is this the demonstration of ethics in the way government uses the public media?”
ActionAid stated that it expected President Lungu and his government to begin “with themselves to demonstrate ethical behaviours if they want private media houses to follow suit.”
“Otherwise, citizens will have no option but to perceive the manoeuvres on media houses as political and bent on shrinking the media space, especially for private institutions,” it stated.
ActionAid said in a democracy and where constitutionalism was respected, citizens, regardless of their status, were expected to respect the Constitution.
“Several constitutional issues have come up in the recent past. We would have loved the President to be bold enough to demonstrate how democracy and constitutionalism were respected in the decisions made in those instances. If leaders are in the forefront of bringing the Constitution into disrepute, then we have a challenge to believe the President’s pronouncement on commitment to upholding the supremacy of the Constitution for the wellbeing of all Zambians,” reads the statement.
ActionAid stated that when the President talked about human dignity, equity, social justice and equality, it thought of the social cash transfer and the government’s commitment towards promoting human dignity through provision of safety nets for vulnerable citizens.
“It is a form of equity where those without are given support to meet their basic needs to a certain extent. However, this well intended programme has been subjected to theft and corruption; leaving the vulnerable worse off,” ActionAid noted. “Instead of addressing the root cause of the problem, we begin to scratch and start hoodwinking the public by sacrificing junior officers. We expected the President to address this moral issue, which his government has been shadowed with. Misappropriation of funds meant for the poor is not in any way a demonstration of equity, integrity and human dignity.”
ActionAid added that good governance demands collective decision-making, accountability and transparency in running the affairs of the country.