UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says party members of parliament have resolved to walk out of the House each time health minister, who was arrested on corruption allegations stands up to speak.
Reacting to a statement from State House indicating that Dr Chilufya is innocent of all corruption charges until proven guilty by the courts of law, Mweetwa, the Choma Central member of parliament and chairperson of the African Network of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (APNAC), said the UPND received the statement with deep-seated sense of shock.
He said his party was perturbed and shocked that a head of state could reach levels of now putting it in writing his support for corruption to flourish and thrive under his watch and guard.
“President Lungu should remind himself that at his inauguration in 2016, he told this nation that ‘you citizens have bestowed upon me a huge responsibility and placed your confidence in me to steer this country to a better destination’. Now President Lungu went ahead to say ‘now there will be no time that I shall betray your confidence and trust in me’. I am now reporting back to him and to the nation that we have now reached that stage where President Lungu has betrayed the confidence and trust of the people of Zambia in the fight against corruption,” he said.
Mweetwa said Zambians and the international community would now be well-placed to consider President Lungu as enemy number one in the fight against corruption in Zambia.
“It would appear President Lungu enjoys wining and dining with corrupt leaders. It is unheard of anywhere in the world where a minister such as Dr Chilufya has been formally arrested but continues to sit around decision making table of Cabinet with a Head of State who claims to fight corruption, who claims that there will be no sacred cows,” Mweetwa said.
He said President Lungu in March this year stated that maligning people over suspected corruption without evidence would not work.
Mweetwa said the President told the nation that he was working with some corrupt minister who he would fire.
“We have not seen that happen. In fact, as we speak now, President Lungu is guilty of practicing double standards in the fight against corruption. This is the same President who fired Chishimba Kambwili before he was arrested, this is the same President who fired Emerine Kabanshi before she was arrested or charged with any corruption allegation for social cash transfer abuse, and was quick to invite investigating wings to probe her; this is the same President who fired ZAF commander [Eric] Chimese before he was arrested and charged with corruption. This is the same President who fired Ministry of Education PS [Henry] Tukombe before he was charged or arrested for corruption. So it would appear that there are some people who qualify to be fired and others are a special breed,” Mweetwa said. “They are immune to President Lungu’s firing. President Lungu is blind to corruption. And like I have stated, it would appear he enjoys wining and dining with corrupt people. As the saying goes, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. I am now beginning to wonder whether this particular saying should be applied to President Lungu also in light of his omission to fire Dr Chilufya the same way he refused to fire [Ronald Chitotela].”
Mweetwa said he was doing research to establish whether that particular saying should be applied on President Lungu.
“But this far, the Zambian people, the international community has lost confidence and this is the reason why Zambia despite this attempt to magnify COVID-19 prevalence has failed to attract international community sympathy for Zambia to be admitted to the list of countries to qualify for debt bailout package,” he said. “It is activities like these where the international community can say they cannot continue to use their hard earned taxpayers’ money to bailout a country whose leadership is so irresponsible and reckless to a stage of almost physically and practically defending corruption. We feel this is also a direct and diametrical opposition of article 8 of the Zambian Constitution which provides that Zambia shall be governed in terms of its policy application on the basis of national values and principles which are morality, ethics, integrity, democracy, constitutionalism, non-discrimination among others.”
Mweetwa said President Lungu every March goes to Parliament to report on the application of principles and values.
He wondered what the President would report about next year in March.
Mweetwa said it would be more decent for President Lungu to go and report the progress his administration had made in promoting corruption.
“And that under his administration, what he has done by this correspondence from State House, he has now slummed the door of hope that under his administration corruption can be tackled meaningfully,” Mweetwa said. “We are now left with one window open; a window of hope that come 2021, courtesy of the people of Zambia, Zambia begins anew to fight corruption and that fight will begin the day HH and UPND and other alliance partners will be ushered into power. That is the day we will begin to talk about a genuine fight against corruption. That is the day we shall commence the long walk to the recovery of the economy, meaningfully tackle nepotism, promotions in civil service based on merit and qualification, promotion of employment for the youths not just weaving 2,000 masks then a minister holds a briefing to announce that they have created 200 jobs.”
Mweetwa said the idea of the State House statement was to bring closure to the demands to have Dr Chilufya dropped from his position.
He said UPND members of parliament had a caucus meeting and resolved that arising from the State House statement on Dr Chilufya, they would begin to walk out each time he rose to give a ministerial statement on the floor of the House the same way they did on Chitotela. “We cannot allow somebody facing corruption allegation to be addressing us as if we are accomplices,” Mweetwa said.
He said the appetite President Lungu had demonstrated in defending his minister facing corruption allegations should have been the similar behaviour in defending youth activist Chellah Tukuta who had been talking against corruption.
“So it would appear if you want presidential support, support corruption,” said Mweetwa.
Last week, the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested Dr Chilufya and charged him with four counts of possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Stakeholders have called on President Lungu to drop Dr Chilufya from his ministerial position to facilitate further investigations.
But State House said an allegation is not a conviction.
“According to Article 18(2) of the Zambian Constitution, every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he or she is proven or pleads guilty. And since the Zambia Constitution, as stated in Article 1 (1), overrides any other written law, or customary law, or customary practice, everyone must respect the Presumption of Innocence Law,” President Lungu’s spokesperson Isaac Chimpampe stated in a statement on Wednesday.
“Despite being charged with criminal offences, in this case corruption allegations, Hon. Chilufya is currently innocent until proven otherwise by the courts of law. This assumption is predicated on the principle of Presumption of Innocence, which is enshrined in the Constitution of Zambia and is consistent with according an accused fair trial. Therefore, a mere allegation is not a conviction and it is not the duty of the accused to prove his innocence. The principle Presumption of Innocence until proven guilty by the courts of law is also enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.”
He stated that Dr Chilufya remained innocent in the eyes of President Lungu until the courts of law proved him otherwise.
“The President respects the independence of the Judiciary and other organs such as the Police, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Drug Enforcement Commission, among others, and will do nothing to interfere in the operations of these entities as long as he remains President,” stated Chipampe.
“His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, will, therefore, presume the innocence of Hon. Chilufya and leave it to the prosecution and the courts to prove the minister, otherwise.”