THE third arrest of Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Ronald Chitotela is a serious indictment on the administration of President Edgar Lungu, says Gregory Chifire.
Chifire, the fugitive director of the Southern Africa Network Against Corruption, in a statement yesterday, said common practice in all previous governments was that ministers, permanent secretaries or any government official who faced criminal charges either resigned on their own, suspended or were dismissed by the appointing authority contrary to what President Lungu had allowed to prevail.
“The general public may be aware by now that in the space of three months, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has arrested Minister of Housing and Infrastructure, Mr Ronald Chitotela, two times, on charges of corruption. This is a serious indictment on the administration of President Edgar Lungu, more so that he has allowed a serving minister facing corruption charges to continue serving in his Cabinet,” Chifire said.
He noted that it was the first time in the Zambia’s history that a cabinet minister, facing serious criminal charges was allowed to continue representing the Head of State as a minister.
The ACC on Thursday arrested Chitotela, and charged him with nine counts of possession and concealing of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Chitotela, 47, has been charged with one count of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime, and eight counts of possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime contrary to Section 71 subsection (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010.
Chitotela was released on bond and would appear in court soon.
On February 5, the ACC arrested and charged Chitotela with two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act number 19 of 2010.
“Details in the first count are that on unknown dates but between the first day of July 2016 and the 30th day of October 2018, in Lusaka district, honourable Chitotela did conceal a property namely, lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni, Lusaka disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime,” reads a statement issued by Anti-Corruption Commission assistant public relations manager Dorothy Mwanza.
“Details in the second count are that on dates unknown but between the 1st day of July 2016 and the 30th day of October 2018, in Lusaka district, Honourable Chitotela did conceal a property, namely the remaining extent of Subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.”
But Chifire said the refusal by President Lungu to dismiss Chitotela was eroding public confidence in his resolve to fight graft.
“Whereas not long ago the President fired then Minister of Community Development, Ms Emerine Kabanshi for alleged involvement in the misappropriation of the Social Cash Transfer money, the President has exhibited double standards in the Chitotela case, thereby creating fertile ground for the general public to cultivate unhealthy opinions about a possible cartel in the top government hierarchy benefiting from the proceeds of the alleged minister’s corrupt dealings,” he said.
Chifire further said by not relieving Chitotela of his duties owing to such serious charges by the investigative wings, the Presidency was indirectly showing lack of respect and regard for the State institutions mandated to carry out their duties without let, let alone imposes a huge burden of discouragement on their shoulder.
Chifire maintained that the manner President Lungu had acted on Chitotela had created a lot of doubt about his will to fight graft.
“Whereas it is not the duty of the President alone to fight corruption, his commissions and omissions spell the course that the fight takes. The manner the President has acted on Chitotela has created a lot of doubt about his will to fight graft. The eyes of the general public and as well as those of the international community are on him. We are hopeful that the President will soon come to the realisation that his lukewarm approach to the fight against corruption is negatively affecting his public ratings and may cost him his most treasured position in Zambia- the presidency,” said Chifire.