THE arrest of Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has obviously excited many people who are disgusted by the unprecedented levels of corruption in the PF government. Understandably, all indicators point to the fact that corruption has brought Zambia to its knees. Almost every national problem can directly or indirectly be linked to corruption. There are very few government officers occupying decision making positions who can stand tall and say ‘I have never participated in any corruption deal’. So it goes without saying that to put Zambia on its economic recovery path, we have to first deal with corruption and the corrupt.
Ministers, permanent secretaries, directors, procurement officers, heads of State Owned Enterprises as well as State House officials must all be checked. Whatever they own must be pitted against their total sum of income. Those who cannot explain what they own must be prosecuted, regardless of the positions they hold. This is one reason why the arrest of Minister Chilufya must excite well meaning Zambians. If he possesses any property that he cannot justify from his income, it would be good for him to tell the court how he earned it.
But we have bad news to deliver. Whoever thinks the arrest of Honourable Chilulfya is about fighting corruption is very naive. Any politically enlightened Zambian can tell that there is no legitimate pursuit for criminal justice in this move by the Anti-Corruption Commission. This is a political move meant to soil the political career of the Health Minister, orchestrated by his appointing authority. Yes, this is President Edgar Lungu fighting his own Cabinet minister while pretending not to be involved. Like we have stated before, it is common knowledge among those who walk the corridors of power that Dr Chilufya is one minister whom President Lungu had considered for succession or running mate. This was long before the Head of State started warming up and propping up Defence Minister Davies Chama and other contenders. Whatever has gone wrong, the Mansa Central member of parliament has fallen out of favour, and State House has seen it fit to unleash the attack dogs.
We insist, this has nothing to do with corruption and in their hearts, the officers at the Anti-Corruption Commission know that they were acting on instructions. We are not saying Minister Chilufya is a clean man. He is not. In fact, he is as dirty as anyone else in this government. But our point is that this is not the reason why he has been arrested. If this was about corruption, Dr Chilufya would have been arrested a long time ago. The allegations that he is being pursued for have been in public domain for years now. ACC could not move to arrest the minister because they had no authority to do so from the President. But suddenly now, the boss has found it fit to put Dr Chilufya down.
Our people must understand that if Dr Chilufya is guilty of any crime, prosecuting him would cause problems for many other officials in government, including those occupying State House. This is for the simple reason that corruption rarely involves one person. The corruptors and the corruptees all work in groups. For this one reason, the charges levelled against the minister will not go anywhere; whether they have substance or not. The accused and the prosecutors both know that there is no way Dr Chilufya is going to prison. This is an academic exercise in futility. It’s a political move with a political motive meant to settle a political score.
We have said it before that President Lungu is not serious about fighting corruption. If he was serious, he would have started from his office. As long as he has people like Christa Kalulu serving him as State House Permanent Secretary, despite her unsettled corruption allegations, we will be in order to conclude that the man is playing lip service to the fight against corruption. He only uses it to fight political opponents.
What we don’t understand is whether President Lungu knows that every time his minister is arrested for corruption, his image gets further damaged. What is worse is that he has created a policy which encourages ministers to stay in office while they are being prosecuted. It is obvious that no Ministry of Health official will be willing to go to court and testify against a sitting minister, and the man will be acquitted. So in the end, it is President Lungu who is sinking himself deep into the corruption Hall of Fame because he is undermining his own ministers with corruption tags which he then tries to clean up.
In fact, we can add that this window dressing approach towards the fight against corruption actually creates a cover for the actual criminals in government. When you arrest someone for corruption allegations while intending to settle political scores, you create a problem for the real fight against graft. In the end, even when the real corrupt people are arrested, people would have lost confidence and the perpetrators end up going scot-free. This is the reason why this PF government holds the position that prosecuting corruption is a waste of money because there are very few convictions. But the reason why there are few convictions is because the accused are not charged with corruption charges, but political charges.
We would like to urge the people of Zambia not to be deceived by this arrest of the Health Minister. There is nothing in it that seeks to promote good governance. The only thing we can ask is that if he is aware that he is being fooled by the President, Dr Chilufya must seek to have the last laugh. There are things that he can do to retain a semblance of integrity. He can and he must resign from his ministerial position. Our people have been waiting to see the first sober minded leader who will do the right thing when under arrest.
Resigning does not mean you are guilty. In fact, in this particular instance, resigning from President Lungu’s Cabinet would send a message to the contrary. It would show that you have nothing to hide or to fear. If you are clean, as you would like the people to believe, step down and tell the President to burn.