NEWS that police are finding millions of dollars in people’s houses is not something that should surprise anyone. We can express our astonishment at the amounts involved and the defence that people put up, but the fact that people were keeping that much cash in their houses is not something that is out of imagination. This is not a new issue. We have stated in the past that former president Edgar Lungu was not running a government, but a mafia organisation.
Under Mr Lungu’s PF, people were afraid of the banking system. They were moving about with money in their cars and others kept it in trunks at home. This is a story that was well known. There were contractors and businessmen who were drawing huge amounts of cash and taking it where only they knew. There is nothing surprising about this development.
Just over a week ago, we shared an opinion in which we urged the government to consider changing the currency or rather add new features to selected bank notes to compel criminals who are keeping money at home to bring it into the banking sector. This is what we were talking about. People have mountains of cash in their houses. When we say mountains, we mean just that. If you ask the Bankers Association of Zambia, they will tell you that the sector has been struggling due to the fact that people were avoiding banks in their transactions. When you change the currency, we won’t have to follow this money, it will come to us and we will be able to see who is bathing in illicit money and who is not.
Faith Musonda is just a young lady, who as far as we know was not anywhere in the government hierarchy. What this means is that the revelation is nothing but a tip of the iceberg. Imagine what the bigger criminals who served at top have in their houses. Faith did not have direct access to the State coffers, yet she is able to possess that kind of money. Some people may try to justify what we are seeing by saying that having money is not a crime, but it is a crime. Why would an innocent business person keep that kind of cash. What are you avoiding?
There is no way you can justify keeping K65 million in 30 travelling bags. At the exchange rate of K15 to a dollar, that’s around US$4 million. If it’s usual for you to have that kind of money at home, at least you would build a vault for it, not using travellers bags. That in itself is a sign that the money was on the move. What did you sell? Who is that buyer who opted to pay you in 30 bags of cash? That is a lot of money even in the world’s biggest economies. This is money which could take a lot of Zambians out of poverty it was distributed among the youth.
But Faith is not the actual problem that should worry us. In fact, she is just a symptom of the actual problem that we are faced with. There are many people who will be found with money at home, and there will be a lot of work for our law enforcement agencies. But we must be careful not to target individuals who are perceived to be at loggerheads with the new government. We must be careful not to destroy people’s lives with false scandalous news.
The question we must be asking now is; what is the government’s strategy in addressing this situation? We heard from the President that there will be a fast track mechanism in recovering stolen money. But that will require legislation and a clearly laid out mandate that will convict criminals and protect those who have legitimately earned their wealth.
When is that fast track court or tribunal going to be set in motion? We ask because it seems the other wing which is doing the investigations is already in full swing and crimes appear to be coming out naturally. Who in government is actually spearheading this process? We would like to see a system that is addressing this problem.
If the government has come up with a strategy that they will use in this recovery process which they have not yet shared with the people for security reasons, that is commendable. But our plea is that those in the leadership must take this revelation very seriously. There are political criminals out there with a lot of money. These are a security risk and they must be dealt with carefully. This kind of grand corruption and theft is something the government needs to address very seriously and urgently.
The President has made it clear that he wants to focus on fixing the economy but there will be no economy to fix with this kind of illicit financial flows. The government needs to attack this problem urgently or else the corrupt will sort them out.