NAREP president Elias Chipimo says the corruption being witnessed in the PF government is unprecedented and has to be stopped.

And Chipimo says the fact that President Edgar Lungu choses to remain silent in the face of such clear evidence of crime by his own officials is a sign that PF is not interested in fighting corruption.

Speaking at a media briefing at the NAREP secretariat in Lusaka, Monday, Chipimo said lack of law enforcement action against those cited in the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) 2017 Trends Report is worrying.

Chipimo also disclosed that NAREP would embark on a countrywide anti-corruption crusade to collect as many signatures as possible to demand for appropriate action against those looting public resources.

“In our country, there is a limit with regard to the Financial Intelligence Centre, they really can’t go beyond what they have already done and even in releasing this report, I think what they very smartly managed to achieve is the maximum use of the power that they have and we would support and champion any calls to amend the laws, to give them enforcement powers because it is very clear that their role in providing the information to the law enforcement agencies has not achieved the results that this particular law was intended to bring about. We are not seeing heavy prosecutions. We are still seeing impunities, we are still seeing people feeling as though they are protected and cannot be touched. Who is protecting them? We don’t know for sure but we can guess,” Chipimo said.

He backed calls to amend the laws, which would give enforcement powers to the FIC to prosecute since those charged with the mandate of prosecuting are silent.

“So, we would welcome, we would even champion calls to amend the law to give the Financial Intelligence Centre the power to actually prosecute these individuals where there is violation of the law in respect of areas where they identify in terms of money laundering and so on. The challenge is that we will have to find a way of uniting this with the enforcement powers that are already contained in other laws and are the preserve of these other institutions like the Anti-Money Laundering Authority, the police service, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Drug Enforcement Commission and so on, but we do need to look at the law,” he said.

“Starting today, we are embarking on a nationwide campaign to collect as many signatures as possible to follow the letters that we will be sending to the law enforcement officials and politicians to convey the message that the people of Zambia have had enough of these stories of plunder and misuse of our resources; enough of the lack of action to recover what is rightfully ours; enough of the continued distribution of our land to foreign owners behind closed doors; enough of the impunity that is surrounding the leaders who should be in the forefront of fighting the deep corruption in our midst. I invite civil society, opposition political parties, citizens, activists and stakeholders in Zambia to join us by signing the petition to return our money and give it to the people of Zambia. We pledge that every penny that will be recovered will be paid to every family in the country that is made up of citizens of this nation. We will start with the K4.5 billion that has been identified in the 2017 FIC Report.”

He insisted that NAREP would not relent in the struggle to tackle corruption.

“And so we want to bring this to the attention of the public to work with you in the media so that this becomes a song that the president will get tired of hearing. There is no way I will accept a Head of State saying he is tired of hearing stories about corruption and yet it is happening under his very own nose, on his watch, worse than anything we have ever seen in this country before. That is not acceptable. So, we need these signatures, we want everybody [to sign]. We cannot continue to go on like this. We must say to ourselves ‘enough is enough.’ And these are the people we want, we want to start today,” Chipimo said.

He also noted with sadness that no action was taken despite the commendable efforts by the Centre to produce the report.

“Let us fight this cancer of corruption. I don’t want my children to find out that Zambia balishitisha (was sold), that everything has been given. NRDC is just the beginning, what else is being given that we are not aware of? Where you have to smoke out a president who has signed a guarantee when there was no Cabinet in office at the time, and then there is denial and when it can no longer be hidden, suddenly there is admission. What is going on? Look, it’s time we said ‘stop’, let us stop the rot, we want our money back. And we are not going to stop until we have been to every corner of this country and explain to everybody why this change must happen,” he vowed.

Chipimo called on all Zambians to rise up to the occasion and demand for recoveries of embezzled public resources and appropriate action against those found wanting.

“It can no longer be right or in any way acceptable that revelations of plunder, money-laundering, tax evasion, fraud, abuse of office and corruption are simply ignored, while the perpetrators and their politically-connected allies in public office snub their noses at any person that challenges them. It is irresponsible for any person in a public office with the power to act against the violation of our laws to stay silent in the face of such overwhelming evidence of systematic plunder of our national wealth, even more so, at a time when we are deeply indebted to the Chinese, Eurobond investors, multilateral lenders, private organisations and local lenders and suppliers. Much of our debt obligation is procured quietly and with questionable individuals and companies that have no proven track record of delivery in the particular area of financing required or have questionable backgrounds,” he added.

He also charged that the PF government was not interested in fighting corruption.

“The PF is not, never has been and probably never will be interested in fighting corruption. We have seen time and time again how they have not only stayed silent in the face of corruption, but they have glaringly promoted it on several occasions. We don’t need to look back too far to recollect the directive given by the current PF party Secretary General to PF councillors in Kabwe, asking them to retain plots for themselves, while leaving a balance for the general public. To date, none of his senior colleagues have challenged him or asked that he retract the statement. This is because this has been common practice throughout councils in the country and has been going on for years,” observed Chipimo.

“The sad reality is that people no longer think corruption is a serious challenge as long as the leaders don’t steal everything and leave something on the table for the ordinary citizen. They recognize that corruption is hard to eradicate. However, they have begun to realise that when faced with such crushing economic hardship, corruption has only made their condition worse. The PF did not invent corruption – not at all. They have simply become experts at perfecting it and making it all seem normal. They were originally voted into office on a pro-poor agenda but they have become the enemy of the poor, plundering the national coffers at will and making a mockery of our hard-fought democracy. They have used their position of power to entrench the idea that politics in Africa is about acquiring and distributing ill-gotten wealth. They have indeed become the foxes that are guarding the chicken pen. Nothing good can come out of this equation – only more regular and more frequent destruction of the very chickens they were hired to guard.”