Thursday, November 03, 2011
By Bright Mukwasa, Chibaula Silwamba and Masuzyo Chakwe
Thu 03 Nov. 2011, 14:30 CAT
Transparency International Zambia and Caritas Zambia have questioned the genuineness of President Michael Sata's allergy to corruption. TIZ says it is difficult for Zambians to believe that Xavier Chungu and Emmanuel Mwamba share in the vision of a zero tolerance for corruption that President Sata has espoused since assuming office.
And Caritas Zambia has said President Sata's botched plans to appoint forgery-convict and corruption suspect Chungu as Luapula Province permanent secretary is a scandal.
Commenting on the Chungu saga and President Sata's swearing in of Mwamba, who is currently before court over a criminal charge as Northern Province permanent secretary, Transparency International Zambia chapter president Reuben Lifuka said his anti-corruption watchdog organisation was deeply disappointed with the President's move to appoint or seek to appoint Chungu and Mwamba as permanent secretaries.
"Mr Chungu was prominently mentioned in the London High Court judgment - and Zambians continue to express anxiety at what they see as limited action by the previous government to recover assets that were mentioned in the London High Court process.
It is shocking therefore that even before these cases are concluded, the President finds it fit to appoint Mr Chungu as permanent secretary. Similarly, Mr Mwamba, as spokesperson of former President Frederick Chiluba, distinguished himself in the manner that he defended his boss on the various corruption charges levelled against him," Lifuka said.
"Clearly, it is difficult for Zambians to believe that both Mr Chungu and Mr Mwamba share in the vision for a zero tolerance for corruption. And if people have no confidence in the people appointed, how will these two discharge their functions?
The questions many people are asking is what is the political or national value of these appointments? It is a betrayal of trust of many people who sacrificed and rendered their support to the cause for change in this country."
According to the Zambian civil service structure, a permanent secretary is the highest civil servant in a ministry or province and is the controlling officer of public resources.
Lifuka said the PF government, and particularly President Sata, should realise that the motivation for change was driven by disillusionment and discontent in the manner that Zambia was governed.
"People were tired of the impunity, arrogance and the corruption of the previous administration. The Zambian people simply could not take it anymore ,that corrupt persons and those who had siphoned public monies were treated like heroes while the lives of ordinary poor Zambians counted for nothing," he said.
"It is a slap in the face for many Zambians to witness the same political traits of nepotism, state capture and cronyism creeping into this government, barely a month into office."
He said the appointments of people with pending cases raises doubts in the minds of Zambians including donors whether President Sata really has any serious intentions to fight corruption or he was simply using that as a political sound bite to attract attention.
Lifuka said many Zambians were worried that many of President Sata's appointments to positions of authority were seemingly driven by a sense of appeasement and cronyism.
"President Sata was elected to provide leadership to this country and not to be the source of employment for friends, relatives and supporters. Government should not be a gravy train and a cash cow but a vehicle for public service," Lifuka said.
"The President has the prerogative to make several appointments to the public service, but surely, is he saying that there are no serving permanent secretaries that performed well and deserve to continue in the service of this country? Is he also saying, there are only one or two serving civil servants who are good enough to rise to the position of PS or any other positions of authority?"
Lifuka urged the government to stick to their promise of professionalising the public service. He said it was sad to hear of the several political party sympathisers that would be going into the diplomatic service at the expense of several career diplomats trained at great cost to the country.
"We find it a sad indictment that the serious role of the diplomatic service is likely to be overran by short-term political considerations.
It is a pity that PF which campaigned on a platform of zero tolerance to corruption and a party that associated itself with the poor, has yet to demonstrate that it is capable of changing the political landscape of this country," said Lifuka.
"The PF government should not be held captive by private interests of its supporters, sympathisers or those who claim to have irrefutable evidence on the misdeeds of the previous administration. President Sata should guard himself against the temptation to abuse the excessive powers of the Presidency and the executive."
Lifuka urged President Sata that the constitutional powers he was wielding were not a badge of honour, but a serious shortcoming and a point people have constantly raised in all the constitutional review processes that Zambia has had after 1991.
"We still stand by our position that this excessive power is responsible for a lot of the corruption that we are witnessing in our country today. The usurping of powers of various government institutions including the Zambia Public Procurement Authority, is in part due to these excessive powers.
We urge the President to be cautious and note that the constitutional powers that he enjoys, can be a double-edged sword, which can make or break him as a leader," he said.
Lifuka urged President Sata to take time and listen to the complaints that the people of Zambia were raising on his appointments and general running of government.
"These sentiments are raised in good faith and he should learn from the MMD leadership which insulated itself from the public and thought they knew it all," said Lifuka. "Zambia is bigger than any one person and President Sata will be making a serious error of judgement if he assumes a position of omnipotence in the managing of national affairs."
And Caritas Zambia executive director Samuel Mulafulafu said it was disappointing that Chungu could be given a position where he was required to be a controlling officer.
Mulafulafu said President Sata had been talking about making the corruption fight his first priority but nobody would think that appointing such people to positions of responsibility was a way to fight corruption.
"We want to completely condemn that appointment. The President owes it to the public to explain why, among all the many Zambians that are able and professionally qualified to take up that position, he had to go ahead and choose Xavier to take up the position of permanent secretary for Luapula Province," Mulafulafu said.
He said Zambians had been watching the way the new government was unfolding and President Sata had a lot of good will from the public in terms of being directed.
Mulafulafu said such appointment would erode any confidence people had in the PF government, especially on the corruption fight as it was a complete contradiction of what he says about fighting corruption.
He said the appointments should be reversed as they were a hindrance to the Zambians, who wanted a clean government.
Mulafulafu said former president Rupiah Banda was removed from power because of not being sincere with the public .
He said Banda went on a programme of reversing the gains that were made in the corruption fight.
He warned the Sata-led government that what it was doing might cause problems for it.
"We are watching as civil society very closely," said Mulafulafu, who headed a consortium of NGOs that conducted the Parralel Vote Tabulation (PVT), which safeguarded President Sata and the Patriotic Front's votes in the September 20 election.
And sources said the appointment of Mwamba had put the judiciary at the crossroads because he was still appearing in court over a contempt of court charge.
"The President must have allowed the security wings to vet the names of his appointees because this situation might expose him to embarassment if Mr Mwamba is found guilty in the on-going court case," said a judiciary source.
"The President must desist from making decisions or appointments that will put him in the position where he will be seen to be antagonising the judiciary or the legislature. There is need for separation of powers."
Mwamba is still facing a criminal offence before the Lusaka High Court for contempt of court for allegedly authoring and publishing two contemptuous articles that circulated on the Zambian Watchdog website that analysed a murder trial.