It is unfair that detractors have branded me, my family and government as corrupt without evidence, says President Edgar Lungu.

And President Lungu says although whistleblowers are welcome, they endanger their own freedom if they make false, frivolous or groundless accusations.

Speaking when he swore-in the new Anti-Corruption Commission board of commissioners to be headed by Justice Anderson Zikonda at State House, Thursday, President Lungu lamented that detractors had unfairly branded him corrupt.

“My government does not tolerate or condone corruption because corruption or graft as it is commonly known is costly to the country and the citizens. Those that indulge in corruption do it selfishly and at the expense of our nation. Corruption, whenever it rears its ugly head, should be nipped in the bud. And you gentlemen and ladies have been appointed so that you guide the commission in reducing incidents of corruption in Zambia. My government and I have been branded and including my family as corrupt by our detractors whose major intentions is not just to shroud the successes that this government has scored in developing the country but it’s the aim of these colleagues of ours to paint my government black so that citizens stand against us,” President Lungu lamented.

“Opposition parties that you are aware of in cahoots with some civil service organizations have hatched a sustained campaign to brand and frame my administration as corrupt and they believe the international community will listen to them and finance their campaigns once they scream the corruption chorus.”

He said it was ironic that the detractors were embracing corruption-accused officials who were leaving his government.

“We all know that some public officers have been found wanting, not only at ministerial level but in the civil service and we have parted company. But our detractors still continue to embrace those that leave my government on account of corruption or allegations of corruption as true. As the saying goes ‘an enemy of my enemy is a friend’. So those who are corrupt and have left, they have suddenly become friends of the opposition and being champions. I think this is unfair. We would like to have a system which should anchor on those who allege must be made to prove the allegations,” President Lungu said.

And President Lungu said whistleblowers with false information must be prosecuted.

“As a matter of fact, I know that the Anti-Corruption Act states that false accusers are supposed to be prosecuted. You should distinguish false accusers from whistleblowers. If you are a whistleblower, come forth to the table, give us leads and we investigate. We have a competent Anti-Corruption Commission and other wings of government which are law enforcing. But what we are seeing is everyone is corrupt apart from themselves which is very unfair. Let’s protect whistleblowers and at the same time let’s arrest spreaders of falsehood and defamers of others,” he said.

“Whistleblowers are welcome but if they make false, frivolous or groundless accusations, they endanger their own freedom. This is not a threat but a fact of the law. So I think that let’s get the commission into full swing so that we fight genuine in the fight against corruption as opposed to politicizing it or trivializing in the manner that we are seeing now. So you as commissioners need to be aware of this new culture and help the Anti-Corruption Commission to build capacities that will not just help with the successive prosecution but save the court’s time by not crucifying the innocent people or damaging their careers or lives.”

He cautioned the new board to be wary of the culture of framing others in order to save the court’s time by not “crucifying the innocent”.

“It is clear from the baseless demonstration we are seeing like the one we saw on Saturday this week past that our detractors have upped their game to trivialize the fight against corruption [and] to politicize the fight against corruption. It’s not fair. So I would urge that as a commission, you ask these people to help you by giving you leads and evidence against the corrupt elements in government so that we bring them to book. It’s not good enough to go around the streets and say ‘the government has corrupt people, this country is rotten.’ I am a lawyer myself by profession and as president, I want corruption to be eliminated in Zambia but I do not like innocent people to be accused of corruption and left to suffer the shame for the rest of their lives. This trend of framing innocent people, especially those you hate through social media must be stopped to protect the innocent people so that people are able to carry on with their work,” said President Lungu.

“Let me also express my displeasure at what is slowly becoming a Zambian culture of framing and branding each other negatively. I think we have seen a rapid growth of movements in institutions and individuals trivializing and politicizing the fight against corruption and simply branding every other person around as being corrupt. All of you are very experienced professionals and I am very confident that you will add value to the Anti-Corruption Commission. As you may be aware, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2012 states that ‘persons appointed to the board must be of high integrity and have served with distinction at senior level in government office or registered professional.’ And you are such. Therefore I am very confident that you will perform to the best of your abilities as you are the governing body of the Anti-Corruption Commission.”

The sworn-in ACC board of commissioners is composed of Justice Anderson Zikonda as the chairperson; Yvonne Mutepuka Chibiya as vice chairperson; and Kafula Mwiche, Febby Maimbo, and Newton Nkunika as members.