Fighting corruption, economic crimes with fast-track courts

IF there has ever been a government in the history of our country which has tolerated corruption at a large scale, it is the PF under Edgar Lungu. One did not need to look far to see evidence of that. The behaviour of PF members was enough evidence to that effect. They splashed money all over, including on their beds, took pictures and videos and posted them on social media. Some of them became solutions to all the financial problems this country has. They distributed cash in form of ‘empowerment’, including Edgar himself. And they were very arrogant whenever Zambians questioned their source of money. They went to lengths corrupting even power! And they even thought they could buy their stay in office with ill-gotten wealth!

We, therefore, welcome Hakainde Hichilema’s message when he opened the first session of the 13th National Assembly.

The President has committed to fighting corruption by setting up fast-track courts to preside over corruption and all economic crimes.

“Our administration will strengthen oversight and governance institutions, ensure the independence and autonomy of the judiciary, and guarantee a free press and an active civil society. We will also ensure an improved policy environment, strengthened public financial management as well as improved service delivery and productivity. Further, we will restore the rule of law and protect human rights and property. No more savagery behaviour,” declared President Hichilema. “Madam Speaker, our administration abhors corruption. We have a zero-tolerance policy on corruption in all its forms. We will wage war on corruption and not spare any expense to ensure that perpetrators are made to account for their improper conduct. There will be no sacred cows in the fight against corruption – past, present and future. We will increase the benefits of being honest rather than being dishonest as observed in the past. And the cost of being corrupt will be made high. To enhance transparency and accountability in our national affairs, we will review the policy and legal framework for oversight institutions to enable them to effectively fight corruption and economic crimes. We will increase funding and enhance operational independence of our oversight institutions. For clarity, we will not use our political hand in the fight against corruption but the professional fight anchored on the legal mind given to oversight institutions. So, no complaints going forward. We will increase funding and enhance operational independence of oversight institutions. Further, we will introduce specialised fast-track stolen assets recovery mechanisms and courts for corruption and economic crimes. We will also enact legislation on ethics and integrity for improved transparency and accountability.”

There can be no better news than this for every Zambian who got agitated by the corruption that existed in Edgar’s government. In fact, it is good that this is not just ending with those who served in PF. Hakainde said his government will look at corruption to be committed under his administration, and chart a mechanism for the future. In this case, he promised to strengthen oversight institutions so that they are capacitated.

However, we do not necessarily agree that institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Zambia Police have had no capacity to fight corruption. The problem is that they have allowed themselves to be politicised to the extent that when corruption is being committed by those serving in government, officers look the other way. They have to wait until a new government comes in to flex their muscles. This should not be the case because the law empowers officers from these institutions to work accordingly. This is why officers employed in these agencies must picked on merit. And they must execute their mandate without looking at the face(s) of those who have committed crime. There should be sanctions for those who fail to perform the duties or are negligent.

Corruption is a cancer that should not be entertained by any society.

By the way, why should we have fast-track courts dealing with traffic offences but nothing for economic crimes? This is like that saying – we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. Economic crimes affect the entire population while traffic offences affect just a few individuals.

As Karl Kraus put it, “Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.”

So, the courts Hakainde and team are promising are welcome like yesterday. We need to cleanse society. Honest and hard work must be rewarded and not hero worshipping thieves – plunderers.

Ayn Rand warned that, “When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.”

It’s corruption that saw Zambia procure fire tenders at a cost of US $1 million each! Scandal after scandal on road contracts, scandals at Ministry of Health! The list can go on and on, but this never bothered Edgar and his minions because such dirty deals benefitted them. It is time all our citizens started to abhor corruption.

Jennifer Lawrence advises that, “We need to tell each other our stories. We need to show that everyone – our neighbours, our families, our community leaders – everyone we know is touched by corruption.”

Nobel Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú adds that, “Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain.”

And Pope Francis warns that, “Corruption is paid by the poor.”

We once again welcome Hakainde’s commitment to fighting corruption. We hope that it will not just end with mere pronouncements. For years, it has been a trend for politicians to steal public resources, knowing too well that those who come after them will forgive them. But this will no longer be tolerated by Zambians. If there are any deals of forgiving each other behind the scenes, let this be purely at personal level. We know that they injured each other at personal level, so they can go ahead and forgive each other. But when it comes to matters of the public, we shall not allow any deals to be cut between those in power now and those who were there before them. We want our money back, regardless of who stole it.

The holy book tells us that, “You shall not steal.”

Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”

And Proverbs 10:2 states that, “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.”

And G. Edward Griffin once said, “To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism.”

What the nation witnessed under PF reminds us of Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that, “No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community.”

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