Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Tuesday June 19, 2007 [04:00]
It is true that not everything that Frederick Chiluba did was bad.
But we should always bear in mind that Chiluba was employed to do good, not bad. He was well remunerated for this. It is said that there is a constant struggle between good and bad or evil, and evil has to be punished.
Those who commit crimes have to be punished regardless of the good things they have done before. It doesn’t mean that if one has saved many lives before he commits murder then he shouldn’t be punished for that crime. If this was so, our prisons would be empty because all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and if their hearts are touched, they are capable of doing good.
Whatever the good thing that Chiluba might have done cannot be used to absolve him from his thefts of public funds. Chiluba had no good reason to steal from the Zambian people who had done so much for him. But we shouldn’t forget that criminals usually do a lot of good things. Pablo Escobar did a lot of good things for the poor people of the neighbourhoods where he grew up. He was actually a very popular figure in those neighbourhoods. But we don’t think that this alone should have been used to free him from the drug trafficking charges he was facing. There are very few individuals who are bad at everything and to everyone.
And usually criminals like giving people gifts; they usually share their loot with others. This may be true of Chiluba. He was generous with state funds. Chiluba’s friends enjoyed themselves when he was in power; cash and other gifts continued to flow in their direction. Even his then girlfriend, Mrs Regina Mwanza, now his wife, became rich from Chiluba’s gifts. She bought houses and her businesses were not short of capital – Chiluba provided whatever she needed. But this was from stolen public funds.
There are many people in this country who Chiluba assisted in so many ways who today have difficulties condemning his crimes, his thefts because they were beneficiaries, they ate with him.
And the Mwata Kazembe who is today defending Chiluba, extolling his goodness was one such beneficiary, was one such recipient of gifts. But life has taught us that gifts and bribes make even wise men blind to the truth, and prevent them from being honest in their assessment or criticism. This may explain why the Mwata Kazembe thinks some attacks on Chiluba are just personal vendetta. It is important to learn to distinguish the crimes of our friends from their good deeds. Chiluba stole public funds and this is not a good thing, a thing that should be praised and defended. Chiluba abused public office in a manner that is difficult to justify or defend.
Denouncing Chiluba’s thefts cannot be said to be personal vendetta. Punishing crimes cannot be said to be personal vendetta. We were taught that those who committed crimes and were responsible for injustice, evil, and all those other bad things we are today denouncing would be punished in hell. This could not be interpreted as an expression of personal vendetta. We have denounced, and we will continue to denounce Chiluba’s thefts and crimes, but we have not done so, and we will not do so, out of personal vendetta.
We should learn to criticise and denounce that which is wrong regardless of who is involved in it or who is the perpetrator. We know that there will sometimes be conflict between duty to the nation and personal loyalty to a friend, between our obligations to our country and to our friends. But the crime Chiluba has committed to the people of this country is too big to ignore, to gloss over or allow impunity to prevail over it. While a country like ours is made up of individuals, it is greater than any of its individual citizens, and loyalty to the country, to the nation takes precedence over loyalty to an individual; obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to an individual, to a friend.
Every man, even the worst criminal, has friends who love him. But this should not blind people from seeing the truth. Regardless of what Chiluba gave us; regardless of what Chiluba did for us, we should be able to see the fact that this man is a thief who has stolen from his own people, abusing their trust in him. We should learn from the experiences of our neighbours. It was painful for the African National Congress and the progressive people of South Africa to see Reverend Allan Boesak go to jail for abusing public funds that were entrusted to him. This was a man who had done so much for the liberation of his people, for the anti-apartheid struggle.
Those who condemned him knew very well that they were condemning the action of a man whose integrity and devotion they never questioned, a man whose sacrifice in the liberation struggle may have been far greater than their own. But they also knew that their man had stolen public funds and the law stipulated certain punishments for that type of crime regardless of who was involved. The people of South Africa had to live with the fact that Rev Boesak was a thief, their hero had stolen and had to go to jail.
The sooner the friends and supporters of Chiluba accept the fact that their hero, their friend is a thief who should be punished, the more peace they will have in their hearts. It is not personal vendetta to call a thief a thief; to denounce crime and call for it to be punished. There are many nice people, people who had done many good things who are today languishing in jail for crimes. Why should Chiluba be treated differently? Yes, there are some people who ate with him and would like to be seen to be sympathising with him and paying some solidarity to him.
But there is a better and honest way this can be done. It cannot be done by trying to vilify the innocent people that are trying to bring this thief to justice, to account for what he stole. The best they can do for Chiluba is to pray for him to accept his fate and pay his penance or simply tell him that fisanga abaume. Trying to justify crimes, thefts and banditry won’t do any good to Chiluba and those supporting or defending him.