Monday, August 06, 2007
Monday August 06, 2007 [04:00]
Sometimes it is good to accept things as they are. When one causes problems for himself, there is no need to blame others. When one bumps into a pole at night, there is no need to blame darkness. That is why we find as misplaced criticism, condemnation and threats against Patriotic Front president Michael Sata by the Lamba-speaking community in our country for what they termed tribal remarks by Sata against them.
Sata last week said he sympathised with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) who are investigating Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) commissioner Ryan Chitoba because it is difficult to probe him as he belongs to ‘the family tree’ at State House.
But the question is, why did Sata say what he said? Before anyone accuses Sata of being tribal, there is need to look at the background from which he uttered those words.
From what we can recall, there have been widespread calls for the appointing authority to suspend Chitoba and his deputy Jacob Koyi to pave way for objective investigations by the ACC against them on allegations of abuse of authority of office. The calls have been made in line with the precedent set by President Levy Mwanawasa when he suspended or fired public officers who were investigated by the ACC, DEC or the police, in order to pave way for credible investigations against such officers.
However, from the time the ACC confirmed that they were investigating Chitoba and Koyi, there has been total silence from the appointing authority. Many people, including ourselves, have questioned this silence. Our people have wondered whether or not there are no sacred cows in Levy’s fight against corruption.
Our people have wondered why Levy was quick to suspend or fire other civil servants who faced similar allegations before while he seems to be unmoved now by the same allegations against Chitoba.
It was at this point that Sata said people should not expect much from the appointing authority on this matter. He said it is not possible for ACC to probe Chitoba because he is part of ‘the family tree’. Actually, Sata even challenged State House to deny that Chitoba belongs to ‘the family tree’. Sata also said it is only the PF government that will manage to probe and prosecute Chitoba, when his party forms government.
We are not sure about PF forming government. But we are sure that this time around, Sata did not mean to be tribal or practice tribalism in his remarks although we know that he sounds tribal most of the time when he speaks on such issues. We have not forgotten that shortly before the general elections last year, Sata unjustifiably complained that only Bembas were being prosecuted for plunder of national resources. He even pledged to pardon all the Bemba plunderers once he formed government.
However, when he spoke about Chitoba being part of ‘the family tree’, we clearly understood Sata to mean that Chitoba has strong links with the powers that be in State House, so it is not easy for ACC to probe him. And no one can blame or accuse Sata of anything in that statement especially that he has even challenged State House to deny his assertion.
What can a reasonable member of society deduce from Levy’s silence on the matter? Will anyone be wrong to conclude that there are men and women who are more equal than others in Levy’s fight against corruption? Will anyone be wrong to conclude that depending on who one knows, they can either be prosecuted for, or get away with murder?
These are the issues that those accusing Sata of attacking Lambas should ponder on before they proceed to address matters that were not even of concern to Sata. In his remarks, Sata did not in any way imply that Chitoba is not fit to hold his office because he was appointed by Levy through nepotism. He did not say that Lambas do not deserve to be appointed to public service because Levy is their tribesman. He did not suggest that Lambas should be discriminated against. Sata did not put one tribe or some tribes above the Lambas. We do not think Sata wanted to provoke the Lambas or peddle malice against Levy.
Yes, it cannot be disputed that Levy sometimes has provided impartial leadership and has not hesitated to take action against suspected wrongdoers even at the expense of being unpopular. It is also true that Levy sometimes has suspended and fired people who are known to be his tribesmen and relatives, be they ministers or not.
But the question is, if he has set such high standards for himself, why is Levy failing to act in Chitoba’s case? Why has he failed even to utter a single word on this matter? People are not saying Chitoba is guilty. All they are saying is that for ACC to conduct fair and objective investigations, let Chitoba step aside until he is cleared or implicated.
For now, whatever is said against him remains just as allegations.
These are the issues we would have loved our Lamba brothers and sisters to address instead of invoking something that is not there. Like we have said before, tribalism is a cancer which should not be entertained by well-meaning people. If given room to thrive, tribalism can consume and destroy a country. Just like the spokesperson of the Lamba-speaking community Jobb Luka Shamfuti rightly put it, tribalism can plunge the country into chaos and bloodshed. And there is enough evidence to support this. Hundreds of people over a decade ago were massacred in Rwanda and Burundi on the basis of tribalism. Some tribe considered itself to be above the other, to be more human than the other tribe or tribes.
That is why we have to be on guard all the time and ensure that there are no tribalism punctuations in whatever we do or say because what happened elsewhere on that account can happen even in our midst just in a blink of an eye. Zambia belongs to all Zambians. There is no tribe that is more Zambian than another. We should all have equal opportunities regardless of which tribe we belong to.