NAREP president Elias Chipimo says whenever a high profile person is implicated in corruption, it is always clear that they do so with the blessings of very senior people.

Commenting on the arrest of Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Chipimo said it was likely that Chitotela would not go down alone.

He told News Diggers! in an interview that the only challenge in Chitotela’s case would be to see whether or not the ACC would have the guts to follow through where the trail of corruption actually leads.

“Clearly, something has motivated the President (Edgar Lungu) and his advisors, those that he trusts to allow this action to be taken. There is no doubt that the information that has been used to take this action in arresting Mr Chitotela is as a result of some activities that he may have done that would undermine the chances of whoever the President wants to have on his team. But this is just a tip of the iceberg. There has to be a comprehensive approach in addressing the corruption challenges that this country is going through and this piece-meal attempt appearing to want to fight corruption is welcome only because it’s likely that if Mr Chitotela is guilty, he will not go down alone,” Chipimo said.

“And the question now…and this is standard throughout history [that] whenever a high-profile individual is implicated in corruption, it becomes very clear, very quickly that they never act alone, and usually, they act with the blessing of even more powerful people than themselves.”

He argued that the ACC’s ability to be brave enough to follow-up all the corruption trail in this case remained in doubt.

“So, the important thing about this development is that it should open wide the trail of connections to all sorts of other corruption that may have taken place in the past, and may still be taking place today. The challenge now will be whether the Anti-Corruption Commission really has the guts to follow through where the trail will lead. In my view, they already have ample information to have proceeded against many individuals and possibly all the way throughout the structure of governance. But the question is: will they be brave enough, now that they seem to have been authorized to proceed against one individual; will they be brave enough to follow the rest of the those leads and take the necessary action to bring to justice those that may have been guilty of perpetrating very deep and serious corruption in this country?” he wondered.

Chipimo feared that if the investigation process was not handled properly, it may end up being a whitewash.

He urged those responsible with the case to ensure that they do it diligently so that it did not end up distracting people from the real powers behind the corrupt practices.

“My only concern is that, if this process is not handled properly, it may end up being a whitewash where the action that is taken amounts to a badly executed prosecution, which could end up taking us backward rather than forward. So, those responsible for taking this matter must make sure that they very diligently follow all the processes and procedures so that this does not need to look like a whitewash and to distract us from the real powers behind the corrupt practices that have been prevailing in this country for a long time. But overall, we welcome this step. But if Mr Chitotela is innocent, may that come out clearly. But I think we all know that he is not the only one that has unexplained wealth. And so, we have to ask: ‘is this just the beginning? Is it just a whitewash? Or is this a genuine attempt to address a cancer that goes to the very highest levels of our governance?” Chipimo asked.

But Chipimo also argued that Chitotela deserved all the respect and rights during this process because he was still innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law.

“That is a normal practice in a normal democracy. If you are suspected of corruption, the very least you can do is to step aside and allow for those investigations to be carried out in a manner that does not jeopardize or undermine the authority of those carrying out the investigations. We would expect that that is something that either Mr Chitotela himself should take up and proceed to do without being prompted or if he fails to do that, for the President to relieve him of his duties even if it’s only temporarily assuming that at the end of the day, he will be found not to have been guilty of what he had been charged with. But I think we also have to just keep in mind that, this is not an exercise to encourage people to boast and gloat and feel excited about. This is an individual who has a family, and until he is proven guilty, we have to assume that he has the full rights to be respected as an individual, pending the outcomes of an investigation and prosecution, and recognise that he is an individual; he is a human being, guilty or not, we must maintain our humanity,” said Chipimo.