Green Party leader Peter Sinkamba has asked government to forget about finding the owner of the 48 houses recently forfeited to the State and instead conduct a public auction so that the nation can move on.
President Edgar Lungu last week instructed Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo to engage law enforcement agencies under his ministry to probe further into the flats suspected to have been constructed using proceeds of crime, whose owners the Anti-Corruption (ACC) failed to find.
ACC acting director general Rosemary Khuzwayo revealed during a recent ZNBC Sunday Interview programme on ZNBC that the Commission had decided to close the case against a Ministry of Finance official who was alleged to have owned the said houses on grounds that there was no evidence linking him to the properties.
But President Lungu later directed that the matter be reopened and probed thoroughly, charging that there was no way houses could have built themselves.
However, Sinkamba has a totally different view, saying reopening the matter and having it investigated any further was just a waste of money.
“My view is that if everyone is refusing that those are not their properties then it’s even better for the State because then the State will grab them and they become State property and what needs to be done is just to auction them. Do a public auction and the money goes to Treasury, which is better for the nation because then it means we would have recovered the money which was stolen and it goes back to the State. In my view, since we can’t trace the owner of those houses, then let’s just auction and the money will go to Treasury and we can start paying the Eurobond debt. Because at the moment, government is so constrained resource-wise, it cannot support various institutions fully and we don’t know where we’ll get money to repay the Eurobond,” Sinkamba suggested.
“The first one of USD $750 million is due in 2021. But we don’t know where to get the money, there are just speculations that we hear to say government wants to set up a sinking fund and they told us that they’ve only managed to raise USD $10 million, which is nothing of the USD $750 million. Now if there are flats and for arguments sake, each one of them is worth K1 million, then that is almost K50 million, which is $5 million. And if you can put it there into the sinking fund, we’ll have USD $15 million in the sinking fund, then we move on. Again, you identify other properties where you suspect there are criminals and if everybody runs away, you auction them and sell them and put money into the sinking fund. It’s the easiest way to recover our money.”
He said Zambians should not allow the State to just “pretend that those have been forfeited to the State and then it ends there”.
“Then there is a problem because someone is going to change those flats into his name one day very soon. So before the heat is off, let’s sell those flats and move on. So you must be celebrating you Zambians, don’t even start crying, this is a ‘porridge’ (simple) case which we must all be happy about. Let’s not waste time, we have reached a dead end on this matter, there is no one who is claiming. So if there is no one claiming, why should you worry? What that person has done, whoever stole money and invested into those properties and has run away… what that person has done, he has multiplied that money maybe by two times or three times. Because if you have to sell those flats now, the money you are going to generate is two times or three times what this person stole,” said Sinkamba.
“So that is not a loss, that is a proper gain for the nation. Except that it has come through wrong means. But in my view, the fact that the person who stole has run away and no one is claiming ownership, even better for the nation. It’s better for the nation because we are just going to spend more money in investigating this matter and, personally, I am very skeptical with investigations these days.”