ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba says if President Edgar Lungu truly detests corruption, his commitment to fight it should be seen in action and not in speeches as is currently the case.

Reacting to President Lungu’s speech to Parliament on the application of national values and principles delivered on March 15, 2019 in a statement, Ziba stated that it was strange to see the casual approach and lip service that was exhibited by President Lungu throughout his speech, particularly on fighting corruption.

“This was well echoed by the President in his speech by acknowledging the negative impact of corruption. It was strange to see the casual approach and lip service that was exhibited by the President throughout the speech on this score. Just when we expected the President to make transformative commitments, especially at the height of many allegations of corruption that involve high political figures in the country, what we heard was the usual rhetoric about commitment to fight corruption and yet no actions are seen to be supporting that. If, truly, we detest corruption, our commitment should be seen in action and not just in speeches. We challenge the President to talk about actions government has undertaken pointing to that and not giving figures of alleged discrimination of targeted individuals in the name of corruption,” Ziba stated.

She dismissed the disciplinary measures for junior officers guilty of corruption as nothing when the hatchery of corruption was still being heavily protected.

“Disciplinary measures for junior officers add up to nothing when the hatchery of corruption is still heavily protected. We expected the President to respond from a moral point of view what is patriotic about alleged abuse of government resources; what patriotism is about abusing young people in the name of cadres to cause violence and anguish among citizens. We expected the President to demonstrate morality in failure to fulfil campaign promises of lower taxes, which was the PF campaign’s signature and yet we have experienced unprecedented rise in taxes all aimed at satisfying personal interests. We expected the President to explain his ‘intelligent’ decision to fail to relieve a Minister who has been arrested for corruption and is undergoing corruption investigations. What is ethical about protecting such? What is ethical about holding on to public office when charges of corruption have been levelled against you?” Ziba asked.

She stated that Zambia had experienced the worst form of intimidation by politically affiliated leaders.

“This country has experienced the worst form of intimidation by leaders in the recent past based on political affiliation or having dissenting views. There have been serious attempts to close down CSO spaces to avoid being held accountable. Additionally, the media has not been spared. We have seen a growing trend of threats on media houses. We have seen human rights defenders being harassed on flimsy grounds, students alike. We have seen how some of these manoeuvres have robbed this country of the spirit of activism all because leaders want to hold onto power by avoiding accountability. We expected the President to provide answers to these questions and demonstrate what patriotism there is in citizen harassment. What morality there is in arresting innocent citizens simply because they are exercising their fundamental rights,” Ziba argued.

She stated that it was expected of President Lungu to explain why political leaders were using young people to cause violence, especially during elections.

“Political violence to a larger extent enforces intimidation against citizens, especially women, and prevents them from exercising their rights of association. It is in such situations that we need the President, as a leader of a political grouping, to condemn political violence and recommend drastic measures aimed at stopping it. Further, citizens question the morality in maintaining an economy that is devoid of safety nets; an economy that continues to undermine the dignity of its citizens due to high poverty levels, especially among women and young people,” Ziba stated.

She also wondered why the Social Cash Transfer scheme was subjected to theft and corruption.

“The Social Cash Transfer, for instance, is a good example of government’s commitment towards promoting human dignity through provision of safety nets for the vulnerable citizens. It is a form of equity where those without are given support to meet their basic needs to a certain extent. However, this well-intended programme has been subjected to theft and corruption leaving the vulnerable worse off. Instead of addressing the root cause of the problem, we begin to scratch and start hoodwinking the public by sacrificing junior officers. We expected the President to address this moral issue, which his government has been shadowed with. Misappropriation of funds meant for the poor is not in any way a demonstration of equity, integrity and human dignity,” she stated.

And Ziba regretted the manner in which national leaders had turned the dialogue process into a laughing stock.

“Over the past months, the nation has been treated to saddening dramatization of the efforts aimed at restoring national unity through the national dialogue and reconciliation. We must mention that citizens remain disappointed in the manner our national leaders have turned this very important process into a laughing stock! Despite efforts by key stakeholders to facilitate this process, our leaders have not demonstrated humility. We have seen arrogance at its best among our leaders and the drive to undermine the importance of this process. The success or failure of this process squarely lies on his leadership to ensure such processes are given the latitude through political will. We cannot talk about patriotism if, even a mere come-together gesture to promote national unity, is turned political,” stated Ziba.