WE need a strong investigative body and an independent judiciary, which will strictly enforce the laws of the land, which must be clear and unambiguous and not subject it to different interpretations or legal loopholes, says Vernon Mwaanga.
And Mwaanga says successive governments must ensure that those who have amassed wealth through dubious means are made to account for their misdeeds.
He said corruption in government and other institutions was eating into the fabric of society.
“Recently, we marked International Corruption Day and as usual, lofty anti-corruption statements were made by various people, some of them convincing, but many of them unconvincing. The anti-corruption crusade which started during the reign of our founding president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has suffered severe setbacks since he left office in 1991,” he said.
“It was therefore fitting that he recently won an anti-corruption award. Like every human being, Dr Kaunda had his weaknesses, but being corrupt was not one of them. He dedicated his life to the service of our country and people and placed no premium on accumulating personal wealth and/or even those around him to do so.”
Mwaanga said during Dr Kaundas lengthy stay in power, many anti-corruption measures were introduced, including the Leadership Code, to which all public officials had to subscribe to, among other measures.
“There were billboards all over the country exhorting the public in Zambia to ‘Just say no to corruption’. It is frightening today to see public officials at various levels, who had nothing but their meagre personal possessions only three years ago, accumulate so much money and properties, which their normal salaries and allowances – which are in the public domain – cannot reasonably justify,” he said.
“Recently, we had 48 residential houses in Lusaka, all of them with tenants, whose owner or owners could not be identified. How could such a thing happen in this day and age of records? This would have been laughable if it were not so serious. Let me hasten to quickly add that most of our people and public officials live honest lives and serve our country selflessly. Unfortunately, we have two types of public servants, genuine servants and evil servants.”
Mwaanga said the African continent had acquired a very unwholesome reputation as having some of the most corrupt leaders and officials in the world.
He said corruption was a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or institution entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse of entrusted power for one’s personal or private benefit.
He said corruption includes many activities such as bribery and embezzlement.
Mwaanga said the government corruption occurs when an office holder acts in an official capacity for personal gain.
He said corruption takes place at different levels.
“It could be at the level of a policeman demanding and accepting a small payment at a checkpoint to let the person without a valid motor vehicle license get away, to huge overpriced government contracts for fertiliser or roads. It is generally accepted that the effect of corruption involving government infrastructure contracts is to increase costs and construction time, lower the quality of work and decrease the benefit to the country,” he said.
“The international community classifies corruption into essentially three categories (a) Petty corruption (b) Grand corruption and (c) Systematic corruption.”
Mwaanga said all international studies conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019 were generally in agreement and have identified the main causes of corruption in many African, Asian, European and South American countries as follows: greed, low levels of democracy, weak civil society participation in the fight against corruption, low levels of transparency in government and semi government institutions, low press freedom to hold governments accountable, inefficient administrative government structures, poverty, lack of commitment to society, low levels of education, among others.
He said corruption was a serious cancer which must be rooted out of the Zambian society.
“It is a cost and a heavy burden on the citizens. We need a strong investigative body and an independent judiciary, which will strictly enforce the laws of the land, which must be clear and unambiguous and not subject to different interpretations or legal loopholes,” he said.
“Successive governments must ensure that those who have amassed wealth through dubious means are made to account for their misdeeds, so that we have some kind of serious and credible deterrent. We should go back to the days of bill boards countrywide and regular public discussions about the evils of corruption on radio and television stations. We must return to the glorious days of zero tolerance to corruption and encourage ordinary citizens who discover or witness so many illicit activities, actively participate in the fight against corruption in our society.”