Rainbow Party General Secretary Wynter Kabimba has challenged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to reopen the docket against a Ministry of Finance official who allegedly owned 48 housing units recently forfeited to the State, saying there is enough circumstantial evidence to prosecute him.
And Kambimba says there is need to amend the Corrupt Practices Act to make the ACC more proactive in the fight against corruption and the much talked about lifestyle audits are to produce the desired results.
Commenting on the decision by ACC to close the case involving the 48 forfeited housing units due to “failure to find the real owner of the property”, Kabimba said the manner in which ACC had handled this case did not inspire confidence.
Kabimba said he was surprised by ACC acting director general Rosemary Khuzwayo’s interpretation of the case.
“Firstly, she acknowledged that there was a certificate of title which was in the name of somebody. A certificate of title is evidence of ownership of property, that’s the purpose of a certificate of title. Unless it is challenged by somebody that the title was obtained by fraud. She tried to explain that that particular officer said that somebody just went to him and asked for a copy of his NRC. But she didn’t tell us who that person was. Who is that person who went to that officer [from the ministry] to ask for a copy of his NRC? What was the relationship between that officer and that person who went to ask for a copy of the NRC? He couldn’t have been a stranger, he must have been somebody known to the officer. Then the question arises, if the tenants are now paying to the ACC, who were they paying rentals to before the properties were seized? The ACC should tell us!” Kabimba demanded.
He observed that the ACC’s approach was promoting corruption.
“I was surprised by her (Khuzwayo’s) interpretation of this whole thing. The way they have handled this matter actually encourages and promotes corruption, it doesn’t deter corruption. What they are saying is that anybody who is confronted by ACC about the ownership of a property or a real property like a house or a car or whatever, all that they have to do is deny the fact that the property is theirs. And the only way for ACC in those circumstances is to seize that property and have it forfeited to the State. Which in itself is not a deterrent, it promotes corruption and corruption being promoted by ACC itself!” Kabimba said.
Kambimba said what Khuzwayo said showed that the ACC lacked capacity to fight corruption.
“My view listening to that [Sunday] Interview is that there was enough circumstantial evidence. In her presentation, [Khuzwayo] said ‘even if we had taken that officer to court, he would have said he didn’t know about the properties’. But what about the presumption of ownership that arises under possession of a certificate of title? There is presumption of ownership, and it would have been upon the officer to prove to court that that title was obtained by fraud and he had no hand in the issuance of that certificate of title. A certificate of title has a signature, the lease in a certificate of title has a signature of a title holder. Who signed the lease which is in the certificate of title?” Kabimba asked.
“There are a lot of issues that arise from her explanation as to why they took the step they took, which does not make any sense at all other than showing that you have an institution which lacks capacity in fighting corruption, that was the symbolism of that explanation. It (ACC) actually manifested itself as an institution, as lacking capacity. Even that committee which she referred to that ‘we have a committee that looks at complaints’, she said there is a group of people that look at the complaint and then they determine whether or not the complaint has substance, meaning that the case of that Ministry of Finance officer must have gone to that committee. Who is composed of that committee that could have arrived at that decision? What is the composition of that committee that they could arrive at this decision that ‘this officer is innocent just seize the properties’? I think ACC has an explanation to give to the nation.”
Kabimba demanded that ACC reopened the case so that the officer could be tried in court.
“My demand is that the ACC needs to reopen that docket and investigate that matter thoroughly and take the matter to court. We want to know the people involved. ACC is accountable to the Zambian people, not to a single office of this land. If they don’t do that then they are setting a bad precedent, because just like I have said, all that I need to do is disown the ownership of any property associated with my corrupt acts and then they will fold their hands and say ‘after all he has said that he’s not the owner, give the 20 motor vehicles to the State’. You are not going to fight corruption using that precedent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kabimba said there was need to amend the Corrupt Practices Act to enable ACC become proactive.
“Grevazio asked her what the Commission does if it discovered that a civil servant was living beyond their means and she said ‘we need a complainant, someone should come and tell us’. She kept on saying ‘ACC is not everywhere across the country so we are depending on citizens’. In fact what she was saying was that ‘we don’t have any provision in the law that can make ACC move itself or be proactive to approach a person like that’ and that has been my argument on this debate of the lifestyle audit. We don’t have any legal provision, you need a complainant to go to ACC. So that calls for the amendment of the Act to reinstate the original section 54 which was in the original Corrupt Practices Act under Kaunda. The debate that we have enough provisions at hand is not anchored on any legal provisions that can move the ACC to approach me if I am parking 20 vehicles in my yard, I will just say ‘go to hell this is not your property’ and there is nothing they can do. So if you are going to fight corruption, if you are going to bring civil servants under control, you need to amend the law,” said Kabimba.