Saturday, April 06, 2013

Corrupt elements seek protection in tribe
By Editor
Fri 05 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

Maxwell Mwale is claiming that the Patriotic Front government's fight against corruption is targeting the people of Eastern Province.

This is not a new argument. We have heard such arguments before. When Nalumino Mundia was fired from Dr Kenneth Kaunda's government for alleged corruption, the first reaction was a regional one, a tribal one. And this was in the early years of the UNIP government.

Nalumino formed his own Lozi-based political party, the United Party.
For sure, it must not have been an easy decision for Dr Kaunda to fire such an outstanding freedom fighter and such a leading politician at that time. Nalumino was not inherently corrupt. But poor judgement was made on his part to accept some shares in a private company in a manner that was not acceptable for someone who was a cabinet minister in Dr Kaunda's government. Under the current order, Nalumino would not have lost his cabinet position over that. But very high standards, principles, values and common aims had to be defended at that early stage of our independence. Dr Kaunda made it very clear that he didn't "want to see decisions made for self-interest rather than the benefit of the people". Dr Kaunda maintained that his "government hates corruption, and anyone we discover doing that will be in trouble with the government".

Nalumino was not punished because he was Lozi or because Dr Kaunda hated him. Actually, in the Second Republic, Dr Kaunda brought back Nalumino to be prime minister.

We also heard similar arguments in 2001 when Levy Mwanawasa approached Parliament to ask for the removal of Frederick Chiluba's presidential immunity so that he could be prosecuted for corruption. Some people argued that Levy was selectively prosecuting people from Luapula Province and that he didn't like Bemba-speaking people.

Of course, this was nonsense, it was not true. What was true was that Chiluba, with a band of corrupt elements from Luapula, abused his office, his powers to loot the national treasury. The people who Chiluba was stealing with were predominantly from one region. But this is not strange, corrupt elements always turn to nepotism, regionalism and tribalism for protection. This is the only time they pretend to care about the region or the tribe from which they hail. Chiluba and his friends didn't care much about the people of Luapula. And we challenge anyone to go to Luapula and see the poverty that exists in that region of our country. They will not find good roads and other infrastructure in Luapula that is not found elsewhere in the rural provinces of our country. Luapula is as poor as any rural province of our country. Chiluba and his friends did not steal to share their loot with the people of Luapula; Chiluba was not a Robin Hood for Luapula. He stole for himself and his friends - they bought expensive designer suits, shirts, pyjamas, neckties, shoes and so on and so forth. They competed with each other when it came to dressing; they boasted about having the most expensive suits. Chiluba spent over US$1 million of public funds on suits, shirts, pyjamas and shoes in a Belgian boutique. Of what benefit were these things to the people of Luapula? Chiluba spent public funds buying his then girlfriend Regina Mwanza all sorts of things, including property. How did this benefit the people of Luapula? Regina may be from Luapula but the public funds Chiluba spent on her were not shared with the people of Luapula. The people of Luapula remained in poverty and are still in poverty today. But Chiluba tried to abuse them in his attempt to discredit the genuine and legitimate efforts of Levy's government to make him account for his corruption.

We today again see a similar attempt by Rupiah Banda and his friends to play victim when being pursued for corruption. There is nothing regional or tribal about Rupiah being pursued for corruption. It is not an anti-Eastern Province campaign. If Mwale was a beneficiary of the corruption of the Rupiah regime, he should just answer for himself. We know that Mwale had issues of corruption over the many bicycles he could not account for. We cannot comment further on this issue because it is before our courts of law.

If one closely examines the people Rupiah was involved with in his corrupt activities, it would be evident that most of them were from one group of people. But this is not strange. This is the typical behaviour of corrupt people. Corrupt elements are nepotistic, tribalistic and carry on their corrupt activities by patronising people on all sorts of lines, including regionalism or tribalism.

And this is why the fight against corruption has also to be a fight against divisive tendencies like regionalism and tribalism. This is so because these are weapons corrupt elements use to perpetrate their vices. In a nation that has totally overcome these vices, corruption becomes difficult to perpetrate and fighting corrupt elements becomes much easier because people are more united against wrongdoing. If you remove regionalism and tribalism, corrupt elements have no place to hide, they will have no tribe or region to run to.

Fighting corruption requires action on several essential levels. First of all, a political line of action must be laid down. By defining regionalism and tribalism as enemies to be fought against, just like corruption, corrupt elements are deprived of the chief instruments of their anti-people practices.

Of course, we have also heard arguments about personal hatred against this one or that one being advanced to try and divert public attention from the real issues at hand. It is not hatred for which Rupiah is being prosecuted. There is nothing of a personal vendetta in issue here. The charge against Rupiah is very simple and clear. One doesn't need to be a lawyer to understand that charge because it is in a layman's language. There is nothing about hatred in that charge. If Rupiah can explain in a satisfactory manner why things happened the way they happened in that transaction, that charge against him will fail.

That charge is not dependent on whether Michael Sata likes or hates Rupiah. It has nothing to do with love or hatred; it is simply about what happened, who benefited from that government oil transaction. The prosecution will give its evidence and Rupiah will have the opportunity to discredit that evidence. If magistrate Joshua Banda is satisfied that Rupiah has got a case to answer, he will put him on his defence. At this stage, Rupiah will have an opportunity to give his side of the story by taking the witness stand himself and calling others to testify. That is all that is needed in this case. After that, magistrate Banda will give his judgment. And as Rupiah has personally said, he has confidence in the country's Judiciary, which includes magistrate Banda. This being the case, where is the regionalism, the personal vendetta in this case?

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