PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says it is only a matter of time before he sets up a commission of inquiry into the privatisation process.
Receiving a ‘citizens’ petition on setting up a Commission of Inquiry into the privatisation programme of the 1990s – submitted by a ‘consortium of 10 civil society organisations’ led by YALI president Andrew Ntewewe, President Lungu said he would soon direct legal and other experts to draft terms of reference for the Inquiry.
Ntewewe told President Lungu that over 40,000 citizens across the country had signed the petition and wanted an inquiry.
He said among the organisations that marched from the Embassy Park to present the petition to State House were student union representatives from the University of Zambia, Copperbelt University, NIPA and Evelyn Hone College.
President Lungu thanked the group for following up a “matter of grave national interest” saying that is the kind of patriotism he wanted to see in the country’s young people.
He said the will of the people should always reign supreme.
President Lungu said Zambians had an opportunity to put the controversial matter to rest and subject those that abused the process to justice.
He said it was clear that certain elements took advantage of a government process to loot, plunder and enrich themselves from state assets.
“Section 2 of the inquiries Act allows me to set up a Commission of Inquiry and I’m not obliged to consult anybody,” President Lungu said.
He however, said he would consult his ministers among other people who understood the history of the Privatisation process and the legal implications to help him come up with terms of reference for the Commission.
“We have to put this matter to rest and all and those who were in it and were found wanting will have to answer to the people and the law,” said President Lungu. “Whether the people were sleeping or not does not matter, what is important is justice. So I can assure you that it’s a matter of time, the commission will be instituted.”
And in moving what they called a motion to call on President Lungu to set up an inquiry, Evelyn Hone College Students Union president Namwaka Malama said: “we must put this discussion to an end for the sake of prosperity.”
Recently, FDD president Edith Nawakwi accused UPND president Hakainde Hichilema of impropriety during the privatisation programme.
Following those allegations, information minister Dora Siliya said the government had received with great indignation reports that former chairman for the Zambia Privatisation Agency negotiating team, Hichilema, was one of the key perpetrators of extensive abuse of the privatization process.
“Hon. Nawakwi, through her various media engagements, has categorically stated that Mr Hichilema failed to declare interest while presiding on the sale of public assets in which he had personal interest,” Siliya said.
She said the government was, studying the matter and was following closely the reaction by the citizens “who are the true owners of the property in question” and that the nation would be informed of the steps that it would take should it become necessary to act on behalf of the citizens.