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Should Chitoleta resign or stay?

 

On Thursday last week the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested Ronald Chitoleta, the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, and charged him with 9 counts of possession and concealing of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

The Anti-Corruption Commission charged Chitotela 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 no. 19 of 2010.

Chitotela was, however, released on bond and will appear in court soon.

With all these corruption charges, it doesn’t make sense for Chitoleta to remain a cabinet minister. There’s need for him to resign on moral grounds. If he doesn’t, Edgar Lungu must fire him.

Resigning from office is a critical ethical decision for individuals. Resignation also remains one of the basic moral resources for individuals of integrity. The option to resign reinforces integrity, buttresses responsibility, supports accountability, and can provide leverage and boundary drawing. The moral reasons to resign flow from three related moral dimensions of integrity. Individuals in office promise to live up to the obligation of the office. This promise presumes that individuals have the capacity to make and keep promises, the competence to do the tasks of office, and the ability to be effective. Failure in each of these areas generates strong moral reasons to resign.

Resigning has a profound role in the moral ecology of the self. First, resignation supports personal integrity. Personal integrity matters because it enables persons to claim life as their own and enables society to allocate responsibility on the assumption that individuals can act with consistency and discipline on behalf of promises. Personal integrity involves the capacity to take a reflective stance toward roles and actions, and make sense of how they cohere. It resembles what the moral philosopher John Rawls calls “reflective equilibrium,” a state in which an individual reflects across roles and actions, and assesses their compatibility or consistency with each other and with an individual’s commitments. This reflective movement spins the threads that stitch together selfhood and creates wholeness, durability, even beauty, across the quilted fabric of a person’s life.

Personal integrity also means that persons can act on the basis of belief and commitment. Persons of integrity can keep promises and play by the rules because they have the self-discipline and character to overcome temptations, opposition, and problems. Integrity enables individuals to seek greater compatibility with commitments by revising actions or roles to restore moral coherence. If all else fails and a role threatens the fabric of life, then people can sever a role and resign.

Second, resigning buttresses moral responsibility. Individuals in public office possess responsibility for their actions, and resigning is a basic moral resource of responsible persons. Although the level of personal responsibility may vary, individuals above the ministerial levels possess some coresponsibility for institutional actions because they materially contribute their competence to the outcomes. Too often individuals respond to moral conflict by denying responsibility with excuses such as “following orders,” “no choice,” or “not my job.” The existence of the option to resign prevents them from exculpating themselves with such excuses. The option to resign means that the theoretical linkage of personal responsibility and position is real.

The resignation option complicates the moral and psychological temptations to save integrity yet deny responsibility. The knowledge of this option means that a person cannot escape knowledge of his or her responsibility by pretending that he or she had no choice. Resignation defines the field of his or her integrity because participation becomes a matter of choice, not force or inertia. It means individuals know that they contribute in a substantial way to the realisation of goals. This matters because the social and psychological pressures of office push individuals to live by group norms. Everyday organisational life pressures people to stay and blinds people to the resignation option. We want to make clear that we are referring to a robust notion of integrity and responsibility. This is not a call for hair-trigger resigning. In public life, no persons get all they want all the time. Most officials lose more battles than they win, and victories are always imperfect. So public officials find themselves compromising and contributing to imperfect outcomes. Moral effectiveness does

not flow from innocence or scrupulosity, and a responsible public official should not resign over every conflicted principle but has to learn to live with moral imperfection while keeping his or her moral compass and integrity intact.  No one ought to accept office in a government without a full consciousness that he ought not to resign it for frivolous reasons.

Third, resignation can help ensure accountability to democratic institutions.

Exit from an institution can signal to the public the existence of a debate over deeper or more serious issues than had been exposed in public deliberations. A public resignation with voice adds information and credibility to dissent. Like any human action, however, resignation cuts both ways and can also harm accountability. If everyone opposed to a policy exits, the institution loses its capacity for internal reform. Exits of dissenters narrow the range of options within an inner circle, encourage groupthink, and undermine the internal trust and communication needed for honest policy discussion.

The willingness to resign buttresses the moral and psychological core of integrity and responsibility. If persons become so wedded to office that they will not resign under any circumstances, they risk violating their integrity, the norms of office, and effectiveness.

All said, should Chitoleta resign or continue to be of Cabinet?/LM

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