By The Post
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 13:00 CAT
MORE is expected of Michael Sata and his government in the fight against corruption. And as World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati has observed, the people of Zambia will have every right to demand more from Michael and his government because they were elected by the people on the platform of cleaning up the country and improve the performance by addressing the issue of corruption.
[They were also elected to turn away from the neoliberal economics the World Bank has been forcing on Zambia and the world, and is destroying the global economy as we speak. - MrK]
The performance of Michael and his government will be evaluated against the record of what they have or have not achieved in the fight against corruption. Did they fulfil their promise in the fight against corruption? But to deliver on this promise, Michael and his government will require to put in place good legislation, good law enforcement officers, and a good judicial system.
And right now, capacity is seriously lacking in our law enforcement agencies. There is need for more resources to be channelled to the operations and training of those involved in investigating and prosecuting corruption.
On the legislative front, Michael and his government seem to be moving in the right direction and taking the right initiatives. Their decision to reinstate the abuse of office offence in our Anti Corruption Commission Act is a commendable initiative that will go a long way in increasing public confidence in their seriousness to fight corruption even among their own ranks.
It is easy for them to fight the corruption of the former regime. But it will not be that easy to fight corruption among themselves, among their own colleagues. And this is where the greatest test in their commitment to fighting corruption lies.
The importance to the fight against corruption of coming up with good legislation doesn't need much disquisition. As we have stated before, we cannot call others to virtues, to principles, to standards which we ourselves do not make an effort to adhere to or practice.
Coupled with good law enforcement and a good Judiciary, the abuse of office offence can go a long way in deterring corruption among public officers. But there is need also to pay special attention to those outside government or state offices who induce public officers to abuse their offices.
Corruption has to be fought not only in public institutions but also among private institutions because these are the ones who in the final analysis make it possible for public funds to be stolen, to be abused. There is need to strengthen the law and make it easier for law enforcement officers to be able to demand accountability from every citizen.
We all need to account for our wealth, for the money we have and accordingly pay taxes on it. There is nothing wrong in law enforcement officers demanding to know how one has acquired the wealth one has. We say this because unearned income, unexplained wealth is a prima-facie case of corruption.
And where there is suspicion of corruption, of a crime having been committed, law enforcement officers need to investigate and establish the truth. And the onus to prove otherwise should be on the individual who is being pursued or accused. This will not be strange to us as a nation because it is a practice that is followed throughout the civilised world.
And this is how most of these countries have managed to curb corruption. This is not a violation of any one's rights, it is not an unjustified intrusion. But of course with poor law enforcement agencies, such laws can be abused by those in power to harass, victimise and humiliate political opponents.
We therefore need law enforcement agencies that are not open to political manipulation and direction. We also need an efficient and incorruptible Judiciary. Our Judiciary, in its current form, has shown serious deficiencies, defects, weaknesses.
It is a Judiciary that has been much more open to abuse by the political authorities in collusion with those who manage it. We have seen how our Judiciary was abused and corrupted to let Frederick Chiluba go scot-free by Rupiah Banda and his agents in the Judiciary.
The Zambian people, as a result of corruption in our Judiciary, failed to recover what Chiluba and his tandem of thieves had stolen from them because the Judiciary was influenced to reject the registration of the London High Court judgment.
This was a judgment in a case that had been commenced in London by the Zambian government of Levy Mwanawasa to help them recover what Chiluba and friends had stolen from the Zambian people. The Zambian people won the case in London but for them to recover what Chiluba had stolen, that judgment needed to be registered in the High Court of Zambia.
But Levy's successor, Rupiah, was not for that idea and ensured that Chiluba kept his loot by not having the judgment registered. This is what happens to the fight against corruption if the judicial process is corrupted.
It is clear that a lot of work is needed if the fight against corruption is to register some successes. Our rotten Judiciary has to be corrected. Our law enforcement agencies have to be strengthened in all ways, including in terms of the integrity of their officers.
This calls for better organisation and remuneration of officers. A generalised system of accountability where the wealth of every citizen is open to scrutiny may act as a good deterrent against corruption among our judicial officers, unlike today's case where some of our judges have accumulated so much wealth which does not tie up with their earned income.
Where did this wealth come from? This also applies to our politicians. Corruption should be made a difficult and costly undertaking. It should also be made easy for law enforcement officers to investigate and trace proceeds of corruption.
Clearly, fighting corruption cannot be reduced to political rhetoric or promises. Action is needed on all fronts. There is need for increased public awareness on this issue because corruption is a very dangerous obstacle to the realisation of our development goals.
And why should we tolerate something that is so morally, legally, politically and economically wrong, unacceptable and indefensible? There is no one in the world who has ever said corruption is good.
Even the most corrupt elements have spoken against corruption. This means there must be something seriously bad about corruption and as such it should not be tolerated in any way and in any form. It is probably for this reason that Michael and the PF picked it as an election campaign issue which helped them win last September's elections.
But matters should not end there. Future support for Michael and the PF must be tied to their performance on this greatest promise of theirs. If they fail to deliver on this score, public support for them should be immediately withdrawn.