The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR) has challenged President Edgar Lungu to personally address the eSwatini land saga in a bid to inspire confidence in the Presidency.

In a statement, JCTR challenged President Lungu to address the nation on the ongoing eSwatini land saga, which government has struggled to justify in conflicting pronouncements issued in recent days.

“Is the gift of land to the Republican President a moral or legal Issue? A lot has been said about the gift of land to the President by King Mswati of the Kingdom of eSwatini. It is not the donation of land that seems to be the issue to most people, but the capacity in which the donee has received the donation. The relevant provision in consideration is Section 21 (1)(b) of the Anti-Corruption Act, which states that a public officer (whether the public officer in this context includes the President is subject to interpretation) commits an offence of abuse of authority of office if the public officers uses one’s position, office or authority or any information that the public officer obtains as a result of, or in the course of, the performance of that public officer’s functions to obtain property, profit, an advantage or benefit, directly or indirectly, for oneself or another person (paraphrased). Pursuant to this provision it has been argued that the gift of the land to the Republican President is a legal issue,” read the statement availed to the media by JCTR head of programmes Geoffrey Chongo, Thursday.

“In this respect, it has been argued that the President received the donation of land from Swaziland in his capacity as the Head of State. This means that an offence under the Anti-Corruption Act has been committed. It must be pointed out that legality and morality are not mutually exclusive. Corruption is morally wrong. At the same time, it is a crime. Corruption is recognized as an issue of serious political, economic and moral significance representing a cost for growth and development. In a country like Zambia where we take seriously the fight against corruption, the fight against corruption is lost the moment that our leaders’ actions or decisions become suspect of infringing some anti-corruption laws. This is because in a crusade against corruption, the country needs leadership that spearheads the fight not only by words, but also by example. Any indication of wavering in the zeal or passion on the part of the President in the battle to rid the country of this vice can have devastating consequences.”

JCTR stated that citizens ought to look up to the President for inspiration, noting that President Lungu must not allow his actions to erode the public confidence and trust.

“This is because in our efforts to fight the cancer of corruption, the nation looks up to the President for examples and inspiration. The government of Zambia has declared zero tolerance against corruption. Therefore, the President must not allow his actions to erode the public confidence and trust amongst Zambians in his leadership towards this goal. The failure of leadership in this crusade will give negative signals and trigger a race to the bottom, which will have serious consequences on the development of our nation. Our concern is that it is the poor men and women and the vulnerable members of our society who are going to bear the brunt of any reversals in the fight against corruption in Zambia,” JCTR stated.

“We, therefore, urge the President to demonstrate leadership in this regard by coming out to address the nation on this issue to assure the nation that the government is still committed to achieving zero tolerance against corruption.”

JCTR, the renowned Catholic­-run organisation, observed that government’s contradictory statements on the land saga were not inspiring confidence in the Presidency.

“The conflicting justifications the nation is getting from the President’s staff and some traditional leaders are not inspiring confidence in the Presidency. The reported allegations of corruption involved in this land transaction, including the alleged involvement of Inyatsi Construction Ltd, are very serious to be left to the rebuttal of traditional leaders and a few civil servants, some of whom are probably not even familiar with the transaction. JCTR is further asking the Anti-Corruption Commission to redeem itself on this matter by instituting thorough investigation in the allegation and clarify whether the President breached any provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act,” stated JCTR.