Veteran Politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says the ex ministers who illegally in office after the dissolution of Parliament have got no choice but to pay back the money as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

And Mwaanga has urged politicians not to trivialise the warning from Catholic Bishops over the ongoing political violence in the country, saying violence has capacity to consume the country if not immediately arrested.

In a statement, Sunday, Mwaanga regretted that President Edgar Lungu and his ministers’ refusal to repay the monies they accrued illegally was creating an impression that there were two sets of laws in Zambia for those in power and for ordinary citizens.

“One of the important basic concepts underlying the rule of law is that the rights and responsibilities of citizens should be subjected to a set of rules which must be enforceable and not to arbitrary actions by those in power. The rule of law also requires a fiercely independent and just legal system, which must protect citizens from unjust actions and punish the aggressors for their acts of aggression without fear or favour. Once courts of law have passed judgment, as they did in the case of Ministers who were made to overstay after Parliament was dissolved in 2016, they have an unfailing obligation to obey the Court by paying back public funds they earned unlawfully during that time. Yes, President Edgar Lungu is the one who told the Ministers to stay on in office after Parliament was dissolved, but this is an internal party matter which they should resolve, but to pay back the money is a must. It is a choiceless choice for them. By not paying back and dragging their feet, an impression is created to the effect that there are two sets of laws for them and for ordinary citizens. This is wrong,” Mwaanga stated.

And Mwaanga advised politicians not to ignore the warning of the Catholic Bishops that if violence was not tamed, it would consume the country.

“Government and leaders of political parties, should not trivialise their warning. Violence is primitive and evil and has been known to destroy countries or reduce them to failed states. We should not allow our country to degenerate to that level, simply because this new crop of political leaders has clearly failed to deal with violent elements in their political parties by punishing them. A grim peep into the report of the Commission [of Inquiry] into voting patterns and violence during the 2016 tripartite elections, clearly points an accusing finger at political parties. This is totally unacceptable and our leaders, particularly our Republican President Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, must show the way by stamping out violence in his party and the nation as a whole,” he stated.

“The late President Levy Mwanawasa walked the talk by warning MMD members to desist from violence and other lawless acts and vowed not to protect them in the event that they got involved in any of the obnoxious activities. This warning applied to cadres of other political parties and the police were told to enforce the law at all costs against the culprits regardless of who they were. The net result was that our country enjoyed a prolonged period of political Cadre free violence during his reign.”

Meanwhile, Mwaanga called on politicians not to underestimate the value of dialogue.

“I welcome the call by UPND President Hakainde Hichilema for dialogue with President Lungu, to address the many problems facing our country. I equally welcome the response by President Lungu’s spokesman. Let the dialogue begin, because we are sick and tired of empty talk. I only want to add that this dialogue should be inclusive of other political parties, particularly those represented in Parliament. Our political leaders must show maturity for a change and put our country first and not their personal egos. Zambia is facing many serious problems ahead of the 2021 general elections, which require urgent solutions. Meaningful dialogue is absolutely essential in a nascent democracy like ours. It has served our country well in the past. As the old adage goes ‘those who ignore history become blind to the future,” stated Mwaanga.

“It is evident that the benefits of dialogue are being underestimated by those who don’t believe in it. This is made worse by reluctant democrats, who are being dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming. It is these elements who more often than not,are confused about their own roles. More recently, we have had some misguided misfits engaging in hate tribal utterances, which must not be given any credence in our country. The disappointing part is that the perpetrators of this tribal hate speech are not being punished. Hate speech in whatever form or shape, must be crimilalised, because if it is not dealt with firmly and decisively, our country could degenerate into an unwanted civil war.”