NAREP Leader Elias Chipimo says President Edgar Lungu’s statement that the procurement of fire tenders must be probed is annoying because it is taking citizens for fools.

And Chipimo says he does not blame Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale’s justification on the procurement of 42 fire trucks at $42 million because he was just protecting his job.

Speaking on Radio Phoenix’s Let the people Talk today, Chipimo said President Lungu’s statement was annoying.

“First of all my heart just cries, you know, I was so upset about two days when I just heard the response in Parliament from honourable Vincent Mwale who is a friend of mine and I like him, he is a nice guy but I just felt so angry just like I am angry now when I see the headline which is in the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper saying ‘probe fire purchase’ from the President [Egdar Lungu]. Because we have been taken for fools as Zambians, we have been treated like we are idiots and that we can’t think. We are treated as though whatever they want to do they don’t care what our reactions and response will be. Now, I don’t mean that of Vincent Mwale [for me] he is a decent man and I was able to sum his response into two sentences; number one ‘I was not there when it happened’ and number two ‘I don’t want to lose my job.’ That’s how I sum up his address,” Chipimo said.

He observed that President Lungu’s statement suggested that the ACC needed his permission before lodging investigations.

“On this issue where we have spent $42 million to buy 42 fire tenders, what we need is not probing from the President to the Anti-corruption commission, what we need is a truly independent inquiry because this is not about whether or not bids were evaluated and the decision was made and the basis upon which the basis was made. This goes much deeper than that. Something just smells very rotten about this and it’s not going to be exposed by a white wash of putting the ACC under pressure, in fact it’s wrong for the President to even make that statement because what it’s suggesting is that the ACC will only act when you the President tell us, it’s confirming that the ACC is probably too weak to act on something like this when those who have been awarded this contract are close to the very Head of State,” Chipimo said.

“And in making this statement it’s almost saying once the ACC clears the air and says ‘yes we received these tenders and these are the bids’, it will just be a reproduction of the statement that was issued by honourable [Vincent] Mwale in Parliament and we are not going to accept that. My prayer is that whoever was behind this and everything that was wrong about it, is that this brings them down wherever it goes even if it goes to the very top, let this be the thing that brings corruption down in this country. We can’t go on like this.”

He challenged President Lungu to set up an independent inquiry to probe the matter.

“So we are calling on the President if he is serious about fighting corruption to set up a very small commission of inquiry made up of technical people, engineers represented by the Engineering Institute of Zambia should be part of that, and independent procurement specialists should also be part of that, there must be one or more representatives from the civil society that must be on that panel as well. They must be the ones to thoroughly investigate the pricing and the specification…how that tender process was concluded, and how the final pricing was arrived at? And they must submit that report, that is not a very long exercise, it can be done even within 30 days. So we are calling upon the President to institute a commission of inquiry immediately if he is serious about the fight against corruption. If he chooses not to do anything, well the public will have to do their own conclusion about that,” Chipimo said.

Meanwhile, Chipimo said it would be of no use blaming the ACC for failing to do its job because everything in Zambia revolved around the President.

“What troubled me is that the President in his address to Parliament talked about strengthening the office of the Anti-Corruption commission, I don’t really want to sound like a complainer but look, we all know the corruption that is taking place in this country, we know that corruption is no longer just in the hands of the elite. It has been democratised, it’s gone all the way to the market place. Corruption is everywhere. Now the greatest acts of corruption are really centered around these major awards, major tender awards. If you look at what the Anti-Corruption Commission tries to do, I don’t think anybody should throw stones at the Anti-Corruption Commission for the simple reason that until we don’t have a system where ACC can be accountable to somebody other than the person who happens to be President of Zambia, you will never get any serious attempt to fight corruption in this country,” said Chipimo.

“Everything revolves around the President in Zambia so for example if I was to be appointed Director General of the Anti- Corruption Commission and I wanted to take out an action against a Minister or the President because I felt that he has acquired enormous amounts of property and could not properly explain this and I carried out my investigation, what will happen is that if I decide to proceed with those investigations all the other people who have been appointed by the President, everybody that I may rely on will not cooperate with me proceeding with that operation. So what happens is that I have to make a choice, either I keep quiet or resign. Now nobody is going to lose anything if I resign. Then we don’t have people who are going to back the ACC Director General if he decided to investigate someone whom the President does not want to have investigated because where is he going to go? Are you telling me that the PF dominated Parliament is going to set up a special investigation in order to do this?”