Friday, March 20, 2009

Chiluba, Rupiah flock together

Chiluba, Rupiah flock together
Written by Editor

It is difficult to understood or appreciate what Rupiah Banda sees in Frederick Chiluba. Chiluba is certainly a moral and political liability to Rupiah.
Why should Rupiah keep company of a man who robbed the government he leads?

Rupiah’s government is today trying to get the London High Court judgment registered in the High Court of Zambia so that it can be effected on Chiluba. The London High Court found Chiluba to have stolen public funds and has ordered that this money be recovered from Chiluba’s assets. And once this London High Court judgment is registered here, its status will be as if it was issued by the High Court of Zambia, in all respects it will rank as a judgment of our own courts of law.

So, as far as Rupiah’s government is concerned, Chiluba is a thief who has stolen Zambian taxpayers’ money, and millions of dollars for that matter. But look at the respect he is receiving from Rupiah! Look at how warm Rupiah and his friends are towards Chiluba! And compare this to the way Rupiah is treating Ng’andu Magande who has not stolen a single ngwee or cent from the Zambian government. Look at Rupiah’s hostility towards Magande! Listen to Rupiah’s denunciations of Magande! Look at the way Rupiah’s cadres are calling for Magande’s blood, his suspension and expulsion from the MMD! But look at the way the same cadres are treating Chiluba. And today Chiluba is boasting of his MMD membership. Nobody is threatening to suspend him or expel him from the party for being a corrupt person who has stolen Zambian taxpayers’ money!

Look at how hostile Rupiah is towards those connected to Zambian Airways! Listen to or read the propaganda that Rupiah and his friends are churning out every day in the state media and on the internet against The Post, accusing us to have pocketed US $30 million! Compare this to the way they are treating Chiluba and his friends who are proved thieves and who the government is trying to recover millions of dollars from!

What impression does Rupiah’s keeping of Chiluba’s company create in the minds of our people? Can this be seen as a healthy relationship that should be encouraged? Will it be wrong for anyone to insinuate or conclude that this is a case of birds of the same colour flocking together? The Bible tells us that “every creature prefers its own kind, and people are no different. Just as animals of the same species flock together, so people keep company with people like themselves. A sinner has no more in common with a devout person than a wolf has with a lamb” (Sirach 13:15-17).

Probably this is another case in which we are told in the Bible that “when a rich man stumbles, his friends will steady him, but if a poor man falls, his friends will have nothing to do with him. When a rich man makes a mistake, there are many people to cover up for him and explain away all the things he never should have said. But let a poor man make a mistake, and he gets nothing but criticism. Even when what he says makes good sense, nobody will listen” (Sirach 13:21-22).

Rupiah’s accommodating of Chiluba is strange and raises a lot of questions about his judgement, his principles, standards and morality. It is only in Zambia where the head of state and government can openly keep company of, and have a reservation for, a person who has stolen such huge amounts of money from government coffers. And here we are not talking about the criminal matter that is still with our courts pending judgment. We are talking about judgment that has been passed by a competent court that is recognised, accepted and respected by our government. We are talking about the London High Court judgment which our government is trying to register in this country and localise. This is more than enough evidence to prove and justify Chiluba’s corruption, his theft of public funds. One doesn’t need to wait for the judgment that will come on July 20 from our magistrates’ court. The purpose of that judgment will not be to prove whether Chiluba is a thief or not. Its purpose will be to decide whether or not Chiluba should be sent to jail or not for his theft. The issue of Chiluba stealing public funds has been settled. And no one will unsettle it. This being the case, there is no way Rupiah can claim that he is dealing with an innocent Chiluba until the courts of law prove him otherwise. Yes, there is a presumption of innocence in our magistrates’ court where Chiluba was being tried for theft. But that’s where it ends. We say this because in an action initiated by this same government in the London High Court, Chiluba has been found to be a thief.

The truth is if you are a supporter of Rupiah and you go round exalting his name, no one will touch you. All your crimes will be ignored or forgiven. But immediately you start to question or denounce Rupiah’s decisions and actions, then everything changes – you become a criminal even if you have committed no crime. This is what everything boils down to when one examines Rupiah’s attitude towards wrongdoing and corruption. That’s why today in this country if you stand on weak ground, if you have some skeletons or even a small bone from a skeleton in your closet, you cannot utter a word against Rupiah or those close to him.

For this reason, as long as Chiluba continues to speak for and support Rupiah, his crimes will be ignored and may even be forgiven. And Chiluba knows this and that’s why he is doing and saying everything he can in support of Rupiah. After all, Chiluba made it clear to the nation that he doesn’t just support people for the sake of it, there has to be something in it for him to do so. And this may explain why in 2006 when the Patriotic Front and Michael Sata promised to stop all criminal proceedings against Chiluba and his friends if they won the elections, Chiluba threw his weight behind Sata and PF. Chiluba was everywhere exalting Sata and flashing PF symbols. On election day in 2006, Chiluba said that they were going to vote in the good and vote out the bad. In this case, the good being Sata and PF and the bad was Levy Mwanawasa and the MMD. But in last October’s election, Sata changed his mind and declared that he was not going to protect corrupt elements like Chiluba from criminal prosecutions. And that marked the end of Chiluba’s support for Sata and the PF because it was clear that there was nothing in it for him. Chiluba turned to Rupiah and the MMD where there was something in it for him.

There is need for Rupiah to consider the feelings and sensitivities of the Zambian people. It was the Zambian people who asked Levy and Parliament to strip Chiluba of his immunity, investigate his crimes and prosecute him. And this government did. They secured a favourable judgment in London. And here at home, they managed to get him at least on his defence, he was found with a case to answer. And his wife, Regina, has been convicted by our magistrates’ court for receiving stolen money from Chiluba. This certainly says something about Chiluba’s criminality. He is not an innocent man that the Zambian President and government should be parading around or keeping company with.

And as Rodger Chongwe has correctly observed, it is unethical for Rupiah to be interacting publicly with a disgraced criminal like Chiluba, a man who this government took to court and was found to be a thief, a man who is still facing criminal charges in our courts of law as a result of his corruption and theft of public funds.

We know we are probably the last voice Rupiah would listen to. And this doesn’t bother us. What bothers us is his inability, unwillingness to listen even to his good friends, people who campaigned for him in the last election. If he can’t listen to us, let him listen to his supporters. And Chongwe supported him during the last election. So he can’t accuse him of malice, hatred or opposition to him. Let him mull over things and seriously consider the issues Chongwe is raising. Chongwe says: “It is unethical domestically and internationally for a head of state to interact with a former head of state who is under the crowd of criminal cases and whose case is being handled by a competent court of law. It is not because it is President Banda. Even if it was another president, my viewpoint would not have changed.”

Anyway, that’s the way things stand. Probably we may just have to fall back on what Abraham Lincoln once said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character – give him power.”

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