Friday, December 11, 2009

Fighting corruption the Rupiah way

COMMENT - All Zambians should take an interest in fighting corruption. Everyone should be asking: why are the mines not paying taxes? And are bribes paid by the mines to the political parties and MPs? If so, how much? What is the price for them to sell out the country and economy of Zambia? Let's take a very active interest.

Fighting corruption the Rupiah way
By Editor
Fri 11 Dec. 2009, 04:00 CAT

We have listened to wonderful speeches from Rupiah Banda and his friends about how the fight against corruption is being institutionalised in Zambia. Should we treat these as simply good speeches? We know from experience that the fight against corruption in this country has not worked well in practice as it has done in speech.

Frederick Chiluba claimed to be committed to the fight against corruption. And his government came up with policies and even statutes that gave the impression that he was serious with the fight against corruption. We shouldn’t forget that it was Chiluba’s government that enacted the ministerial and parliamentary code of conduct Act. Of course, there were many forces that contributed to the realisation of that Act. But nevertheless it cannot be denied that it was an Act of the Chiluba regime. And indeed some of Chiluba’s friends were caught by that Act trying to steal public funds for the MMD, for Chiluba’s political schemes.

Only a politician who is insane can stand up and openly say they support corruption. Not even Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko could proclaim that he supported corruption. In speech, Mobutu was against corruption. But in practice he was living by it and everybody knows what Mobutu did to Zaire’s coffers.

Very few believed us when we used to accuse Chiluba of running a corrupt regime. They thought we had something personal against Chiluba and those around him. We were accused of all sorts of things whenever we tried to expose and denounce the corruption and crimes of Chiluba’s league. But today with what has been exposed and found to be true by the courts of law in this country and in England, including those in arbitration, no one can deny the fact that Chiluba ran a corrupt regime in this country. Even Rupiah who is today defending Chiluba is doing so not out of conviction that Chiluba never stole from the Zambian people, but out of a selfish political scheme.

Today Rupiah can go on national television and deliver a speech to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day and proclaim: “My government has continued to demonstrate its commitment to the fight against corruption through various measures and interventions that have been put in place to fight this scourge. Further, in August this year, my government launched a national anti-corruption policy which will ensure that the fight against corruption is well coordinated and meaningful. However, for us to achieve the desired results, it will require that all Zambians take a keen interest in the implementation of this policy and play a proactive role in the fight against corruption. As I have always said on similar occasions before, the war against corruption is the responsibility of everyone.”

Truly, these are nice words which no decent person can disagree with. But they end there – they are simply nice and no more. We know that to fight corruption one has to passionately hate it; one has to be intolerant about it. Rupiah is neither hateful nor intolerant of corruption. We say this because there is no way Rupiah can be hateful of corruption and at the same time embrace those behind the worst corruption syndicates in this country. And corruption in this country was taken to its highest level by Chiluba – a person Rupiah refers to as having been “a damn good president”. And Rupiah has today embraced Chiluba as a political ally and friend.

He has gone as far as ensuring that Chiluba is not jailed for his corruption and he is not made to pay back to the Zambian people the US$ 55million ordered by the London High Court in compensation for what he stole. Rupiah does not seem to be in a position to enforce that judgment and if things are left to his will or wish that judgment will never be registered and enforced in this country against Chiluba. Clearly, despite his nice and eloquent speeches against corruption, Rupiah tolerates corruption and he is a friend to the corrupt.

Since Rupiah took over office as President of the Republic, he has never pursued any corrupt element in this country. The only time he has appeared to be doing so is when he has been attempting to humiliate his political opponents with false accusations. And the best example of this was when he accused us of pocketing US$ 30million from state institutions through Zambian Airways. But to this very day, he has failed to prove in any way his claim. In the same vein, he tried to bring in his political opponent Ng’andu Magande but also failed to find anything wrong this innocent man had done. Probably Rupiah can today attempt to claim that he is fighting corruption citing the case of some low civil servants who were helping themselves with Ministry of Health money.

But we know that this is common crime that many institutions – from banks to supermarkets - suffer from. When we talk about corruption, we mean things like the deals going on in the procurement of oil, the Zamtel transaction, the procurement of GMO maize and so on and so forth. In these transactions, which side did Rupiah take? The side of the people or the side of those who were being accused of corruption? We have not forgotten how Rupiah tried to defend and justify that corrupt GMO maize deal involving those close to him. He even came up with the most ridiculous suggestion that the GMO maize could be milled at the borders. You see what corruption can do to people! They stop reasoning; they miss even the most basic things.

Rupiah says that the participation of all Zambians is required for the country to achieve the desired results! Does he really mean it? We are asking this question because of the way Rupiah has mistreated and continues to mistreat those who have tried to publicly or privately oppose the corrupt schemes of those close to him.

We have not forgotten how government employees in the Ministry of Transport and Communication were treated after they refused to be part of that dirty RP Capital deal that ended with Dora Siliya appearing before a corruption tribunal. Some of them have lost their jobs there or have been transferred to some rural areas and undesirable jobs for simply not cooperating. Who doesn’t know how we have been mistreated, insulted and accused of all sorts of things for simply exposing their corruption and other wrongdoing! So Rupiah doesn’t mean it when he says all Zambians should take a keen interest in fighting corruption. Probably he can condone it if that vigilance and militancy is directed towards discrediting his political opponents and accusing them of all sorts of wrongdoings, even if it’s falsely so.

The institutionalisation of the fight against corruption that Rupiah is boasting about is of no value. No matter how much responsibility is given to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) or indeed the police, nothing will be achieved if there is no political will on his part to fight corruption. And so far, Rupiah has done nothing to inspire public confidence that he is truly committed to fighting corruption.

What he has instead demonstrated very well is his determination at all costs – political or otherwise – to defend his friends and those around him who are corrupt. Rupiah has taken a clear stand in defence of corruption. And no honest Zambian can fail to see this. Rupiah is defending Chiluba’s corruption against the wishes of the great majority of the Zambian people. After that, who can listen to his nonsense about fighting corruption? Every day his government is searching for whistleblowers so that they are dealt with and he wants to turn around and say the war against corruption is the responsibility of everyone!

Zambians are not fools; they know very well where Rupiah stands on these issues. They know very well that Rupiah himself has been involved in corruption of one form or another and probably that’s why he has no difficulties defending those who are corrupt, those who have stolen public funds like Chiluba. The fight against corruption will achieve desired results if Rupiah takes a more responsible approach to the whole issue and stops being in the company of thieves, of corrupt elements.

It is not possible for a police officer who is pursuing criminals to be best friends with the same criminal he is supposed to bring to book. What will the public think of a police officer who drinks, eats and is always in the company of well-known criminals and always defends and protects them from arrest and prosecution?

Can the public be reasonably expected to trust that police officer insofar as fighting crime is concerned? The answer is a categorical No. For the same reason, the Zambian people cannot be reasonably expected to take seriously Rupiah’s political rhetoric on the fight against corruption because they know he doesn’t mean it. Reading a speech on corruption written by some civil servant does not make Rupiah a champion of the fight against corruption.

We shouldn’t forget that the fight against corruption we talk about lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no policy, no amount of institutionalisation, no law, no constitution can save it.

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