ZAMBIA’s fight against corruption is sad because efforts to tackle the vice are embroiled in continuous political hypocrisy, says Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Rueben Lifuka.

And Lifuka has urged Zambians not to be swayed by government officials’ statements which deliberately trivialise the seriousness of corruption but instead, sing the daily song against the vice louder.

Commenting on chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya’s remarks on ZNBC Radio 2 that “every country had thieves and corruption, but that did not mean that corruption should be turned into a daily song”, Lifuka said her statement made very sad reading.

He said Siliya’s remarks were made at a bad time when Zambia was courting the international community for financial assistance to fight COVID-19, adding that such utterances eroded donor trust and confidence on the management of public funds.

“TIZ finds the remarks made by Minister of Information and Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya during a special interview on ZNBC Radio 2 as reported in the News Diggers! edition of Friday 15th May, 2020, unfortunate and very sad reading. Among the many things that Honourable Siliya is reported to have said was that the fight against corruption should not be a daily song since there are corrupt elements in every country on earth,” Lifuka stated in a statement, Monday.

“The timing of the Minister’s statement could not have been worse, just when Zambia is courting the international community for its COVID-19 response appeal. Such statements erode donors’ trust and confidence, particularly that we do have a recent history with corruption and donor funding in a few ministries. Our anti-corruption credentials as a country remain weak and statements of this nature serve little purpose other than cast further doubts about government’s commitment to this fight.”

He observed that unguarded statements from Cabinet Ministers, among other leaders, combined with the failure of leadership in fighting corruption had normalized the vice in Zambia.

“Unguarded statements from Ministers and other political leaders, as well as the patent failure of leadership on this matter, has made corruption to be appear to be normal in this country. We, as a people, are slowly getting conditioned to believe there is nothing wrong with corruption, after all, this scourge is commonplace. Some among us hero-worship corrupt people – these are their heroes and they find excuses to rationalize corrupt activities! Zambians need to stand up and reject this culture of impunity that is deliberately being harnessed through such statements. Today, the corrupt are not afraid of anything, not even the long arm of the law. The corrupt have no conscience and care less if the monies they help themselves to are meant for Social Cash Transfer (SCT), building schools or COVID-19 emergency procurements,” Lifuka stated.

“We have observed with sadness the hypocrisy of our politics, particularly when it comes to fighting corruption. Lest we forget, the PF leaders in opposition were avowed and celebrated critics of the MMD government and the party sang the song of corruption daily. If anything, the anti-corruption agenda was the linchpin of the PF’s electoral campaign and Zambians vividly remember the promises made to ‘sweep this country clean of corruption.’ Clearly, it would seem fighting corruption is nothing more than a convenient political campaign message and statements, like the one Honourable Siliya made, attest to this. Our leaders seem oblivious of the fact that their permissive language and pedestrian approach in the fight against corruption has led to the ‘normalization of corruption’.”

Lifuka noted that Siliya knowingly neglected to state that while it was true that corruption was not exclusive to Zambia, not all countries had turned into kleptocracies.

“The logic that can be construed from Honourable Siliya’s statement is that, since there are thieves and corrupt persons everywhere, Zambians should not be overly concerned or melodramatic about similar activities in Zambia. Honourable Siliya, knowingly neglected to equally state that while it is true that corruption is not exclusive to Zambia, not all countries have turned into kleptocracies,” Lifuka stated.

“There are many countries around the world and in Africa who are making sterling efforts to curb the scourge of corruption and they pragmatically demonstrate their intolerance for all forms of corruption. Many governments unequivocally continue to exercise strong political will to fight corruption and this is where the difference lies – the degree of efforts to decisively deal with corruption as opposed to live in perpetual denial of the existence of this malignant problem.”

He insisted that Siliya and the PF government should instead work towards stepping out of the ranks of endemically corrupt countries.

“Honourable Siliya and the PF government should not seek solace in this moral equivalence they are wittingly creating that corrupt people or thieves are everywhere, but they should instead make concerted efforts to chart a pathway for this country to step out from the ranks of endemically corrupt countries. The PF government has no mandate over the corruption taking place in other countries, but it has political, legal and moral responsibilities to attend to the growing cancer of corruption in its many facets here at home,” he stated.

“Corruption is not only a crime, but is a social injustice as well. The trail of destruction caused by corruption in Zambia is acutely felt by its peoples, especially the poor and vulnerable. This reality should not be lost on the Minister even when she extraordinarily tries to absolve her government of its failure to effectively deal with this scourge.”

Meanwhile, Lifuka urged Zambians not to be swayed by statements, which deliberately trivialise the seriousness of corruption.

“We want to urge the Zambian people not to be swayed by statements which deliberately trivialise the seriousness of corruption. We should always remember that these seeds of corruption, which are being planted today, shall surely give rise to a generation of Zambians whose lives will forever be impaired by the legacy of many years of corruption. In response to the Minister’s point that our children will not eat corruption, we wish to bring it to her attention that there are in fact children in Zambia, today, who cannot eat as they should because their parents’ or guardians’ ability to provide for them has been decimated by corruption,” stated Lifuka.

“In this vein, we wish to reiterate our stand that contrary to the Minister’s views as reported, corruption remains an enormous problem in Zambia and efforts to eradicate it should be enhanced rather than diminished or ridiculed upon by senior government officials or anyone else for that matter. We owe it to ourselves and our children to rid this country of corruption in all its forms. Unlike what the Chief Government Spokesperson appears to believe, the anti-corruption song should actually be sung louder than ever before because corruption and political impunity should not be allowed to define or characterize who we are as a people.”