I feel sorry for individuals around President Edgar Lungu who are trying to justify his actions because they themselves will end up being caught up by law,” NEREP president Elias Chipimo has said.
In an interview with News Diggers, Chipimo also said that the levels of plunder and the level of expenditure in Zambia have reached a point where people don’t seem to care even if they are exposed.
And Chipimo said the more government officials are trying to justify the eSwatini land gift, the more they give out the evidence.
“What is really sad is that the level of plunder and the level of expenditure has reached a point now where people don’t seem to care even if they are exposed. We have seen issues of people receiving gifts of land in foreign countries and they want to justify it. So that moral authority which a President is supposed to have is completely lost. And we have seen the implications for the country, there is greater poverty, there is greater distress in the home, why? because they are not concentrating on utilising those resources to deliver development,” Chipimo said.
“And as those resources are being plundered, under excessive expenditure, what we are seeing is that less money is now going towards the social infrastructure that can help to create a better economy for everybody. Right now if you just go round all the communities, everybody is crying about the same issues, they don’t have any way of making any decent money. People are living on hand to mouth on a daily basis. So we need to see some seriousness not just from those who are responsible for oversight like the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission, the Financial Intelligence Centre, we actually need all of these institutions to develop some courage and take direct action because they have evidence. For example under the Anti-Corruption Act, It’s an offence to have property which is not consistent with the income that you are receiving. They have a right to question you as Anti Corruption Commission to receive gifts which are in excess of modest sums. They have the right to question you and to charge you with abuse of office if those gifts are acquired during the course of your service as a government officer at whatever level,” he said.
He sympathised with those around the president for trying to justify what was clearly stated to be against the law.
“So we are seeing rampant abuse in councils and that is why councils are not able to deliver basic things like infrastructure, schools, water, access to decent roads, sewage system. All of these things can be done and build the entrepreneur at the same time. And there is a big problem when people try to justify the unjustifiable. You see when you look at the Anti-Corruption Act, it’s very clear. It talks about public officers, and a public officer is any person who works for the government whether elected or not elected. The law is very clear. And I feel sorry for individuals around the president who are trying to justify the actions of the president because they themselves will end up being caught up in this very same law. The only difference between the president and somebody else who has accepted a gift which is higher than the minimum value, is that the president has immunity,” Chipimo said.
He further said that it was possible for President Lungu’s immunity to be removed for prosecution.
“So in order to prosecute the President under the Anti-Corruption Act and he is subject to the Anti Corruption, he is not exempted, that immunity has to be lifted. And we have seen that there is already history of removing the immunity of the president. Michael Sata did that in respect of president Rupiah Banda. So they should be very careful. This is a serious issue, the evidence is there. They themselves have been providing more evidence as they try to speak and justify this action and should anything happen between now and 2021, that will lead to a change of government or by 2021 itself, you can be assured that there will be a full inquiry and investigation into this issue. And all the evidence has already been provided,” Chipimo added.
He said ACC was toothless on government corruption because its officials were sacred of losing their jobs.
“We need to change the law to properly protect those who are supposed to provide accountability and oversight to actions of government officials. For some reasons there is very little by way of courage that we are seeing from these institutions that should be bringing these government officials to book or that should be taking them to task. And the problem is actually a deep problem because what you find is that there are so many connections around different officers such that if you decide that you are going to go against a particular government official who happens to be close to the most senior leaders, then you have to be prepared to face the potential that if you have a wife who works for the civil service, her job could be affected, if you have a son who supplies goods to government, that contact could be affected or just you yourself,” Chipimo further said.
Meanwhile Chipimo said he had evidence that some senior government officials were opening bank account in China and Dubai to keep their monies there and sated that it was just a matter of time before the evidence could be revealed.
“There is not enough protection within the society because if we take the example of Mr Fresher Siwale, he has raised allegation [but] whether they are true or not is not the point, but he was detained, arrested and charged and he was given very difficult bail conditions which he could never attain. Clearly no government official was going to be ready to go and stand the surety because their job would have also gone and yet it’s not against the law to say I will be a surety. It’s a matter of time before these things come out but I can assure you that there is evidence. We will not mention names but the people who have been doing this know themselves. They know that they have accounts in countries like China, possibly and Dubai, properties abroad, all of these things will come to light at the right time,” said Chipimo.