Friday, March 02, 2007

Lands Ministry stinks of corruption - Levy

Lands Ministry stinks of corruption - Levy
By Brighton Phiri and Nomusa Michelo
Friday March 02, 2007 [02:00]

THE Ministry of Lands is stinking with corruption, President Levy Mwanawasa said yesterday. And President Mwanawasa disclosed that he dismissed former lands minister Reverend Gladys Nyirongo and suspended acting Permanent Secretary Frightone Sichone for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices. Meanwhile, police officers yesterday morning sealed off Mulungushi House which houses the Ministry of Lands thereby blocking Ministry of Lands workers from entering their offices to pave way for investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Speaking at State House when he swore in newly appointed lands minister Bradford Machila, President Mwanawasa reminded him that he was being transferred to a ministry that was stinking with corruption. “As for you the new minister of lands, you are going to a ministry which is stinking with corruption. I expect you to ensure that this mud is swept away. I direct you to sweep clean the ministry,” President Mwanawasa said. “You have all heard and experienced the confusion and circus at the ministry.” President Mwanawasa disclosed that Rev Nyirongo approached First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Vice-President Rupiah Banda, home affairs minister Ronnie Shikapwasha and ACC director general Nixon Banda asking them to persuade him to prevail over the appointment of Sichone as acting permanent secretary when Secretary to Cabinet Joshua Kanganja announced his appointment. “She submitted that Sichone was as corrupt as the former PS Mukuka Zimba. Does she think I am easily swayed?” asked President Mwanawasa.

President Mwanawasa disclosed that Rev Nyirongo, while serving as lands minister, allocated two plots to herself, two plots to her son, two to her husband and four to her two daughters. He further disclosed that Rev Nyirongo defied his directive by approving the allocation of a 20,000 acres land to an investor in Mpika, a move he said he was opposed to. President Mwanawasa said he expected Rev Nyirongo to support his policy of ensuring that any allocation of land beyond 1,000 acres was subject to his approval. He said Rev Nyirongo further exhibited an act of defiance by reporting Sichone to DEC and ACC. He said it was not the responsibility of politicians to report anybody to law enforcement agencies, saying it was his responsibility and that of the Secretary to Cabinet.

However, President Mwanawasa said he had since asked DEC to investigate all the allegations levelled against Sichone. He said he was satisfied that allegations against Sichone indicated that he had abused his office. He said it was sad that people involved in corrupt practices were now reporting each other. President Mwanawasa directed Machila to look for a new Commissioner of Lands. He said there were two more ministries involved in corrupt practices. President Mwanawasa disclosed that he had directed Inspector General of Police Ephraim Mateyo to seal off Ministry of Lands offices to facilitate thorough investigations over the alleged corrupt practices.

According to sources, the ACC also searched Sichone’s house on Wednesday evening and continued their search at the ministry yesterday. A check at Mulungushi House found workers loitering outside as early as 07:30 hours as the entire building was sealed, allowing only officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives and the Ministry of Energy and Water Development. Workers from other ministries were allowed to enter the premises only on production of their identity cards. The Ministry of Lands workers were asked to go home by assistant director for human resources and administration Mary Kabinga who said that they would be informed when to return to work.

Some officers at the Ministry of Lands who spoke on condition of anonymity said while investigations were welcome, there was need to also investigate people who acquired land at the ministry because they were the ones bribing officers. One of the workers said it was an anomaly for Rev Nyirongo to report her subordinate to the ACC, because it was not possible that any alleged corrupt activities occurred without her knowledge. Allegations of corruption and abuse of authority of office have been made against Sichone, who is being investigated by the ACC. Last week, Rev Nyirongo reported Sichone to the ACC over allegations of corruption.

Meanwhile, according to records obtained at the Ministry of Lands, Rev Nyirongo obtained a plot, property number Lus/35386 on April 13, 2006 measuring 0.165 in her maiden name, Gladys Zitha. And on the same date, her husband Jim Nyirongo also obtained property number Lus/35387, next to Rev Nyirongo also measuring 0.165. Records also show that her son Davy Nyirongo was offered property number Lus/36120. Records further show that lands deputy minister Moses Muteteka also obtained a plot in Lusaka property number Lus/36434. When contacted for comment, Muteteka said he had no idea that he owned the said property. “I have no idea about that. Don’t get me involved in things I don’t know about. Just deal with issues as they are,” Muteteka said.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, President Mwanawasa’s special assistant for press and public relations, John Musukuma announced Rev Nyirongo’s dismisal. “His Excellency the President has terminated the appointment of Minister of Lands Gladys Nyirongo and has appointed Bradford Machila as new minister of lands. These decisions are with immediate effect,” Musukuma stated.

Before his appointment, Machila served as deputy Justice minister. At the time of her dismisal, Rev Nyirongo was in South Africa leading a Zambian delegation at the African Forum on Corruption. At the forum, Rev Nyirongo said the establishment of a national integrity system in 2006 in Zambia and the signing of the Southern Africa Development Community protocol against corruption were positive steps in the fight against corruption.

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At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

One cannot but help feel sorry for Ba Reverend Nyirongo. Not so much that she has been fired but just the shame of being fired while out of the country heading a delegation discussing corruption.

That aside the measures taken should be the basis of a more detailed investigation into past practices and ministers and officials who may have abused this ministry.

The president alluded to the fact that two other ministries were also involved. Well what is he waiting for ? I hope we don't have to see the POST write about it before action is taken.

Any chance now of Sokoni's letter to be made public and a possible statement on the conviction of Mr. Bulaya ?????

At 9:19 PM , Anonymous MrK said...

" One cannot but help feel sorry for Ba Reverend Nyirongo. Not so much that she has been fired but just the shame of being fired while out of the country heading a delegation discussing corruption. "

Yes, that does sound like a reprimand or an insult. Or a pre-emptive action. On the other hand, how much does Levy know about what is going on at the ministries? His is a very powerful position, but these ministries also seem to be little islands on themselves. Am I wrong?

Mwanawasa couldn't have waited until she was back in the country? I think this chain of events was put into action when she accused

" The president alluded to the fact that two other ministries were also involved. Well what is he waiting for ? I hope we don't have to see the POST write about it before action is taken. "

I hate to say that there should be a full and complete investigation, because that would sound as if I'm calling for the downfall of the MMD, and I'm not. This is a national issue, not a party issue, and truth be told, I barely trust the UPND or the PF to do a better job, when in power.

This stuff is systemic. It will take a politically brave man to pull this house of cards down. For too long, land and other state resources have been used as political capital, to be handed out to loyal supporters, instead of being used for the public good.

" Any chance now of Sokoni's letter to be made public and a possible statement on the conviction of Mr. Bulaya ????? "

I think that is inevitable. :)

At 1:02 AM , Anonymous citizen of zambia said...

I beg to differ,sokonis letter is the tombstone of mwanawasa so the more we wait the better.Why should the president only be reacting to the media?
fine, theres corruption in the ministry of lands what about the health ministy? and all the others, the ghost nurses and doctors are more than the scandal in lands?
sacrificial lumbs are not the answer to sorting out corruption.
clean up the intelligence the country is not family bussiness.
we all know Xaviur is between moz and congo so let us get down to doing the right things for once.
and not creating what we think people would buy, am sure nchito is soon next victim because now he knows the truth.

At 4:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Citizen of Zambia

Be rest assured that Mwanawasa is not acting from deep convictions at the bpttom of his heart otherwise he'd have sorted out the corrupt elements in MMD. Remember how he reacted to the issue of vehicles that MMD were using despite the fact that there was a court ruling. Remember this is the same guy who has difficulty with Katele Kalumba. Remember there is the issue of land he acquired from UNZA.

Mwanawasa is basically trying to avoid confrontation with the POST.

When you say media, unfortunately this includes other sections of the media like ZNBC, Government news papers but we all know that none of these will or has ever dared question Mwanawasa or the government on any issue. so his main fear is what will the POST print in tomorrows edition or the next day.

Needless to say ati, "ba posa mo ka tennis ball nomba."

At 11:27 AM , Blogger MrK said...

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. - Thomas Jefferson

At 10:55 PM , Blogger MrK said...

Land saga: Civil society fumes

THE Church and several organisations have condemned the alleged corrupt involvement of former Minister of Lands, Gladys Nyirongo, in land allocation. But dismissed Minister of Lands, Gladys Nyirongo, has pleaded for an audience with President Mwanawasa to enable her defend herself over allegations of corruption in allocating land to some family members. United Church of Zambia (UCZ) Copperbelt Presbyterian bishop, Committee Njase, said in Kitwe yesterday that the allegations against the former minister were an embarrassment to the Church in Zambia.

“This news has saddened the Church in the country. Church leaders are supposed to be a mirror to society,” he said. President Mwanawasa dismissed Reverend Nyirongo and appointed former Deputy Minister of Justice, Bradford Machila, to replace her.

Mr Mwanawasa also suspended Commissioner of Lands, Frighton Sichone, to pave way for investigations by the Drug Enforcement Commissioner (DEC) into alleged corrupt practices bordering on money laundering. Bishop Njase called on the civil society and the public to support President Mwanawasa’s crusade against vices such as corruption. “I personally support all the ministers but those who are corrupt, I will not support. We should all support the President so that he can continue exposing corrupt ministers,” he said. He said corruption was a dangerous “cancer” to the country’s economy. “I will continue speaking against corruption. In fact this Sunday, I will speak against corruption in church. Graduates from institutions of higher learning can’t get employed because of corruption,” Bishop Njase said.

And Zambia Land Alliance coordinator, Henry Machina, has commended President Mwanawasa for taking measures to protect people’s interests at the Ministry of Lands. Mr Machina said in a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday that land was an important resource that needed to be administered in a transparent manner.

And MMD members at constituency and district levels in Kabwe yesterday met at the party's provincial head office at Horizon Hotel to express happiness and solidarity with President Mwanawasa's decision to drop Rev. Nyirongo. But Rev. Nyirongo said since other people have been given an audience regarding her alleged involvement in illegal land allocation at the Ministry of Lands, she would also want an opportunity to be heard. The former minister said this in an interview when she returned from South Africa at Lusaka International Airport on Thursday night. “It will be fair for the President to give me chance so that I can explain the corruption allegations levelled against me. "All I want is justice. I want to be heard by the President just like other people have been heard. I need this opportunity,” Rev. Nyirongo who was with her husband, Bishop Jimmy Nyirongo, said. She also said she had great respect for President Mwanawasa and thanked him for having given her an opportunity to work as a cabinet minister.

Rev. Nyirongo pledged her continued loyalty to the President. Earlier, the former minister was reluctant to speak to the press. "No comment. What has happened has happened. No comment until I appear before the President. Please, spare me. I do not want to comment," she said. But when pressed, she eased up and appealed for an audience from President Mwanawasa so tha justice could prevail.

And misfortune befell Rev. Nyirongo at the airport when it was discovered that her luggage was missing. Other people missing their luggage were those in her entourage. The former minister spent close to 30 minutes inquiring about her luggage until one of the airline staff told her that it was left at the airport in Johannesburg and that it would be ferried to Lusaka later. Rev. Nyirongo was fired on Wednesday by President Mwanawasa on grounds that she was allegedly involved in illegal allocation of land.

Mr Mwanawasa said at State House on Thursday that he dismissed Rev. Nyirongo on allegations that she gave land to herself, two plots each to her husband, son and her daughter. She is also alleged to have offered 25,000 hectares in Mpika to a foreigner, contrary to President Mwanawasa's directive that any piece of land exceeding 1,000 hectares should not be given out without consulting him. Rev Nyirongo is Kabwe Central member of Parliament for the ruling MMD.

She served as Minister of Sport, Youth and Child Development before last year’s September 28 tripartite elections. In the 2001 tripartite elections, Rev Nyirongo stood on the Heritage Party ticket, which is led by Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda. She resigned a few months later from the political party but retained her Kabwe Central seat after a by-election on the MMD ticket.

At 5:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

These so called churches and "god" peoples, once said Chiuba was the anoited of zambia because he was funding them.
why are they in a hurry to condem and show how holy they are? please read job and find out how and when to condem if at all, this is Gospel based.


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