Friday, December 26, 2008

Chiluba is a disgrace

Chiluba is a disgrace
Written by Editor

FREDERICK Chiluba has disgraced Zambian politics. Chiluba's conduct has brought the presidency of this country down. Reading the proceedings of the London High Court makes one feel very sad that a person who was given the privilege and trust to hold such a high office of our country could behave in such a dishonourable and reckless manner.

Antonio Basile, a Swiss tailor whom Chiluba was buying clothes from in Geneva, told the London High Court that 206 suits of the rarest and most prestigious cloth were made by Italian fashion designers, for the former president. He added that he sold Chiluba 64 pairs of hand-made shoes, 185 designer shirts, numerous silk pyjamas, dressing gowns and ties as well as many tailor-made jackets and trousers.

One would wonder: what were all these for? This may be a simple question to answer if Chiluba was using his own money. But he used over US$ 1.2 million of Zambian taxpayers' money.

And both Chiluba and his agent, Xavier Chungu, knew very well that what they were doing was wrong. That's why Xavier told Basile a lie that Chiluba was a very wealthy man from a very rich family. Chiluba has never been a wealthy man before he stole Zambian taxpayers' money.

And Chiluba doesn't come from a rich family. To the contrary, he comes from a very poor family. Even after stealing, most members of Chiluba's family are still poor and are wallowing in abject poverty in Musangu village. This is because the money he was stealing, he was not sharing it with them; he was squandering it on clothes and on women - buying them all sorts of things, including houses. In saying this, we are not being malicious. There is adequate evidence in the public domain to this effect.

This is the rat the Zambian people had for a president for 10 years. Whoever attempted to question Chiluba's integrity was harassed by all sorts of people. We were accused by all sorts of characters for not respecting the president by calling him a thief, a crook, a senseless person. But hasn't time proved us right? Isn't Chiluba a thief? Isn't Chiluba crooked? Isn't Chiluba senseless? How can a person who spends taxpayers' money in this manner be said to be sensible?

There are great lessons we should learn from all this: trust but verify. There has to be a turn of vigilance or else we will be crooked by one unscrupulous character who wins the presidency after another.

The signs of Rupiah Banda falling in the same pit are visible. And they are starting to manifest themselves in many ways.

We shouldn't forget that Rupiah became President on the back of the electoral corruption and bribery. Rupiah abused public resources and facilities to make himself president.

Even well-known corrupt elements like Chiluba were embraced by Rupiah's campaign. Chiluba campaigned for Rupiah. He was well funded to go to Luapula and ask the people of that province to vote for Rupiah. Again, why? There is definitely something in common between Chiluba and Rupiah.

These issues were raised by many people during the election campaign, but Rupiah turned a deaf ear to all that was being said. His eyes were set on nothing but the presidency at all costs.

The potential, and the temptation, for Rupiah to end up the Chiluba way is very high. It should not surprise Zambians to wake up one day and find that all the key government contracts have been granted to Rupiah's family members, relatives and other associates. We shouldn't be surprised to wake up one day and discover that the main suppliers of fertilisers to our farmers are connected to Rupiah. And we shouldn't be surprised to one day realise that the importation of maize is also being handled by people with connections to Rupiah and his family.

Chiluba enjoyed himself in State House for 10 years - it was an endless party. And everything they needed was there for them. There was no shortage of anything. We can see the signs of this in Rupiah's conduct. Today the Zambian people are complaining of Rupiah taking his entire clan on Christmas holiday in Mfuwe at their expense. Tomorrow it will be on much bigger things and with a much higher expense.

But as we saw under the Chiluba regime, when the head is rotten, all the other parts also go bad. When Chiluba started stealing, corruption in his government became the order of the day. Xavier and others who were at his service also started stealing for themselves; even people who were outside government started joining in the stealing of public funds and abuse of public resources.

There is need to scrutinise every decision and act of Rupiah and his sponsors to ensure that it is done in the most honest manner and in the best interest of the Zambian people. This is much more so because Rupiah has already shown tendencies for corruption, for abuse and extravagance. He should be made to realise very early that public funds are not his, it's not personal money. Rupiah should be made to realise quite early that there is a limit to what he can do for himself, his family and friends with public funds. No one has a blank cheque in this country when it comes to spending taxpayers' money. Everything has to be done in an honest and prudent manner.

Thrift should be the guiding principle in all our government expenditure. It should be made very clear to Rupiah, his sponsors, family and friends that corruption and waste will not be tolerated from them and that these are great crimes.

And we invite every Zambian of goodwill to do everything possible to ensure that Rupiah and his associates do not rape our country the way Chiluba and his tandem of thieves did. We invite the entire nation to take part in the fight against corruption, whether petty thievery or grand larceny, in any place. In this battle against corruption, there should be no quarter given anyone, and we should be prepared to call a spade a spade.

We don't have much money to waste because we are a very poor country. If rich countries are so careful, are so thrift with public resources, what more us who have so little?

One thing we should realise is that our presidents try to live on the moon when our people have no food. The conditions our presidents operate under can be said to be far more superior to most of those of rich European countries. For instance, compare our presidential motorcades and other trappings of power to those of our European friends. If someone came from another planet and was asked to point at which president came from a rich country, our presidents would be on top.

Probably, this is why even Chiluba is dreaming of coming from a wealthy family in Musangu village! This is not only embarrassing, it is actually stupid behaviour. This is why they say it is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.

We need to learn and understand the importance of incorruptibility as part of the essence of self-respect. While appreciating opportunities to enjoy the good life, we should always refuse to use our positions to get ourselves, or members of our families and friends, anything that isn't our due.

Corruption in government is a plague that we must erase from every regime that governs our country.

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