President Edgar Lungu must return his eStwatini gift, it’s not like he has to spend on shipping it back to that country, says Rainbow Party leader Wynter Kabimba.
Commenting on President Lungu’s land saga, Kabimba said it was immoral for President Lungu to accept such a gift in his personal capacity.
“Now, you asked a very good question, what should president Lungu do? If I were President Lungu in the situation which he is today, I would decline this gift on account of the controversy that it has created. I would advise President Lungu to say to King Mswati ‘thank you very much, this thing has created controversy in my country, I have been misunderstood by the people and I am handing back this piece of land to you.’ It is not as if it is very difficult for him to hand over the piece of land, it is not as if he has come over with it to Zambia and he needs to put on the plane to send it back and that he has to meet some costs to send it back to Swaziland. So my appeal to President Lungu is that he must hand over back this piece of land,” Kabimba said.
He observed that controversy surrounding gifts was not a new phenomenon.
“This problem has a long history in terms of our Constitution and the Anti-Corruption Commission constitution. You remember that in 1992 or 93, president [Frederick] Chiluba actually refused a gift of brand new BMW at State House, which came out in The Post Newspaper then, and the president was there and he tried the car. And the issue of what should amount to the gift to a sitting president came up that time. The problem that the people had was that they were still in love with MMD, MMD had just come into power and nobody saw anything wrong with that. And that was what degenerated into the issues of Zamtop or account and prosecution of president Chiluba because the Zambian people did not stand up at that stage to deal with this matter. The second incident to this was during president [Levy] Mwanawasa, there was an issue which was raised when president Mwanawasa was out of government and also when he was in government. The issue that came up when he was in government was that as party president of the MMD, there were monies that were being deposited into his personal account, he was president of the MMD and he was president of the Republic of Zambia. The issue of what the president should be given, whether or not the president should accept monies on behalf of the party and that that money should go into his personal account,” he said.
Kabimba lamented that there were no clear laws providing limitations on the nature of gifts a Head of State could accept.
“This incident is a third one in line of these incidences. What President [Edgar] Lungu or indeed any sitting president of Zambia should accept as a gift or not a gift in their capacity as president of this Republic. The law is not very clear on this matter, there is nothing, there is no provision in the Constitution. We have had many constitution review commissions amounting to four or five of them now. The issue of the gifts going to the president from a Zambia citizen or a non Zambian citizen has not been cumbassed in our constitution over the many years from 1991 when we started the constitution process. So you have two issues here in our view as Rainbow Party. One, it is a moral issue that a gift given to the president as a sitting president should be considered to be a gift given to the state and not to him personally. So the piece of land in Swaziland, when President Lungu goes there as a visiting Head of State, executing his functions on behalf of Zambian people, there should be no personal gift that he should take because that gift should be deemed as a gift to the Zambian people. That is the moral part of it,” he said.
“The legal part of it like I have said is that the law is not very clear over this matter whether we look at the Anti-Corruption Act and the section which learned counsel president [Elias] Chipimo quoted, and you look at the constitution in the form which it is today, it is very ambivalent, it is very vague on this matter. But you see, when you are president of this country, it is not about the law that matters, it is about issues of morality and issues of political perception. That is what matters to the president. And therefore, we take the view ourselves that it is not right for anybody to argue that this gift was a gift to President Lungu in his personal capacity.”
He condemned traditional leaders who had supported President Lungu’s decision to accept the gift.
“We also want to take a different view from what we have seen from some of our traditional leaders that have been making comments over this matter and saying that there is nothing wrong because traditional leaders have the right to give personal gifts to foreigners and that, that is the tradition or culture of us as Africans. What they have to take into account is that [King] Mwati is not only a traditional leader, he is also a Head of State. He is a constitutional monarchy. Therefore, what he does in that capacity, he is not doing it the way an ordinary chief would do. It has implications both in the constitution there and in the constitution of the recipient or the legal regime of the recipient. So I think we must all try to direct our comments to the issues and not appear to be partisan at every stage,” he said.
“The problem that we have in this country is that we fail to be objective. We always want to look at issues from a partisan view point. This is not about President Edgar Lungu. The next president may even do something worse than this if the Zambian people do not stand up and say ‘let us amend the constitution’ so that this is covered. What have we done ourselves as Rainbow party? We have actually put this in our constitution and in our manifesto, that a Rainbow party president in government together with a minister should not be allowed to accept any gift whether from an ordinary Zambian or from a foreigner because this is the genesis of corruption, because those gifts compromise the office of the president and the office of the ministers. So we have taken this into account ourselves within the party, we have provided for this wrong doing, this misdeed both in the constitution of the party and the manifesto of the party.”
Kabimba said it was important for President Lungu to have a moral conscious to reject certain gifts.
“This is not about President Lungu as an individual, it is about President Lungu as President. And he must have the moral conscious himself to say that this is not correct that he must go round the world and receive gifts and claim that this is a personal gift. In 2013, I went to China on an official trip when I was secretary general of the party (PF), and in accordance with what I thought was our culture, I bought a painting which I carried as a gift. They refused to accept that painting, the Chinese refused to accept that painting, I had to give it to somebody else. Why? Because they know that that is wrong because they either have it in their law or in their convention that a public officer or somebody holding public office should not be in the habit of accepting gifts especially from foreigners because that would compromise their office,” said Kabimba.