President Edgar Lungu says Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela will stay in Cabinet despite being arrested on corruption charges because he is innocent until proven guilty.
And President Lungu says he is not willing to lose Chitotela the same way he lost Roan PF member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili because according to him, the two men are innocent as at now.
Speaking to journalists, Thursday, the Head of State wondered what Zambian citizens expected him to do after Chitotela’s arrest.
“A suspect in the eyes of law enforcement agencies can be arrested. And they have chosen to arrest Honorable Chitotela, so what has that got to do with me? He is a suspect and in their wisdom, they chose to arrest him so what should I do?” President Lungu asked.
He said he “lost” Kambwili on similar allegations and he was not willing to lose Chitotela.
“We are fighting corruption…so they have to prove before the courts of law and I hope they give him a chance to prove himself, if he is corrupt. But you see, what I don’t want to do is to politicize the fight against corruption. Remember how I lost Chishimba Kambwili? They came to me, they said he is corrupt. I said ‘investigate him’, they investigated him, along the way they said ‘he is not cooperating, he is insulting us, you know he is very vulgar’, I am sorry to say that but he is vulgar, he can be vulgar, they were crying in my office, I said ‘what can I do?’ In my judgement, I said ‘remove him’, I removed him. Chishimba, up to now we are waiting for the ACC, the DEC and all those who brought allegations against him to prove their allegations in the courts of law. So you want me to lose Chitotela on that basis again? I am saying no. I will give them leeway to arrest and prosecute, bring to court the culprit but I will not interfere, I will even fund them to do their operations but those who are calling for the removal of honorable Chitotela now, I say ‘no, give me space to breathe’, but don’t interfere with the process, bring your evidence but let him also have his day in court,” President Lungu said.
“That’s what justice [entails], and I am a lawyer. And if you look at the Bill of Rights, I think Article 18, it starts with presumption of innocence. So as far as I am concerned, he is innocent. As far as I am concerned, even Chishimba Kambwili is innocent. But look at where Chishimba Kambwili is. ‘No Lungu is fighting Chishimba Kambwili, Lungu this’, no, I have never fought Chishimba Kambwili. What I had was a report from the law enforcement agencies that ‘Chishimba has done one, two, three wrongs, we are investigating him’, like many others. And I said ‘go ahead’. At a certain point, they said ‘we can’t get anything, no cooperation from him and I said ‘what do I do? In my wisdom I removed him from office, the rest is history. He pledged to work with us, the next thing he was saying I am corrupt, I don’t care what has happened but I am just saying I even lost Chishimba Kambwili because of allegations of corruption by the same forces. I don’t want to lose Chitotela in the same manner.”
President said he hoped both Kambwili and Chitotela would find justice.
“I am saying may Chishimba Kambwili find justice, may Chitotela find justice, may all those who are alleged to be corrupt find justice, that’s how the rule of law works. One of the precepts of rule of law is there is no one above the law. When the police feel like investigating you, they will investigate you. When they feel like coming to your home at night to search, they will search. And I can’t tell them ‘go and search Tom Njobvu’s home, go and search that girl’s home, it is not in my mandate. So, let us not politicize the fight against corruption. There is a perception that by doing that they are weakening Lungu, they are not weakening me, they are just killing the systems we have set to fight corruption genuinely. So what comment do you want me to make? May justice be done. ‘No, I am fighting (protecting) Chitotela because he knows too much about me’, what have I done? ‘No Chitotela has got money on my behalf’, I am not a businessman, I am just a politician mandated to lead Zambia,” said President Lungu.
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