TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) Chapter president Rueben Lifuka has expressed concern over President Edgar Lungu’s double standards in treating erring ministers.

And Lifuka says if President Lungu’s intention was to protect government’s image, he should also dismiss his corruption-accused ministers.

In a statement to News Diggers, Thursday, Lifuka said the offence which former General Education Minister David Mabumba committed was nothing different from what his Chiefs and Traditional Affairs counterpart Lawrence Sichalwe did when he circulated a pornographic video last year.

Lifuka, however, said Mabumba’s actions could not be excused as he should have known the consequences of involving himself in production of obscene materials.

“Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has noted with interest the decision by President Edgar Lungu to dismiss Minister of General Education Hon David Mabumba in the aftermath of the obscene video that was circulated on social media yesterday, allegedly featuring the then Minister. As TIZ, we would like to first stress that Hon Mabumba’s actions cannot be excused and he ought to have known that as a senior government official, he has an obligation to exemplify high moral behaviour at all times and to be an example in that regard. We therefore understand why the Head of State has taken the decision to relieve Hon Mabumba of his ministerial portfolio,” Lifuka said.

Lifuka wondered why Sichalwe was not dismissed.

“TIZ is concerned at the apparent double standards that President Lungu is exhibiting in the manner he deals with issues of public interest. To begin with, we recall that in January 2019, Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Hon Lawrence Sichalwe circulated pornographic material via social media, and Zambia Police Spokesperson Esther Katongo even issued a statement confirming that Hon Sichalwe had committed an offence. We note that neither the President nor the Zambia Police took any action over that incident and Hon. Sichalwe remains a serving Minister today. We would like the President to explain to the Zambian people what the difference is between these two detestable acts,” Lifuka stated.

“We do not understand why Hon Sichalwe got away with a more serious offence than what Hon Mabumba has apparently been dismissed for. The point that should not be glossed over from these actions and probably many that are yet to be exposed, is that some of our elected leaders seemingly have so much time to waste on such unbecoming behaviour instead of focusing their energies on finding solutions to the myriad of development challenges that the people face. And these persons are appointed by President Lungu, and therefore such misconduct reflects negatively on his sense of judgement as the appointing authority.”

And Lifuka challenged President Lungu to fire his corruption-accused ministers, saying graft actually had a higher potential to tarnish government’s image.

“In addition to this, we are particularly troubled by the President’s inconsistent approach in dealing with issues of corruption, which have remained a key feature of his administration over several years now. If the President’s intention in dismissing Hon Mabumba is to protect the reputation of his government, TIZ would like to put it to the Head of State that the persistent allegations of corruption that have engulfed his administration have greater potential to tarnish his government’s reputation. The President’s continued insistence not to dismiss or suspend Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya in the wake of his ongoing court case on allegations of corruption negates his administration’s professed commitment to the fight corruption,” he stated.

Lifuka stated that President Lungu’s insistence to keep Health Minister Dr Chilufya in Cabinet was not helping both the office bearer and the Head of State himself.

“TIZ contends that if the accusations against a serving ministers are mere malicious rumours, then the President might be justified in retaining his Ministers in office. What we find unfortunate is the President’s inaction even when such accused Ministers are formally arrested and charged by the Anti Corruption Commission. In our considered view, the Head of State’s decision to keep Dr Chilufya in Cabinet does not help the Minister nor the President himself because in the event that the Minister gets cleared by the Courts of Law, it might be construed in some quarters that this was because he had exerted some influence in some way while holding on to his office as Minister. In that regard, the President’s continued inaction threatens to erode public confidence in the judicial process and is in essence, a stumbling block to the fight against corruption,” Lifuka stated.

“TIZ is convinced that corruption affects many more people’s lives than what Hon Mabumba has been dismissed for, reprehensible as it is, and we are gravely concerned that the President’s inconsistent approach in dealing with these issues renders corruption to be considered as a low risk and inconsequential crime by those in public office. We want to see timely and urgent action against perpetrators of corruption. We therefore reiterate our call for President Lungu to dismiss or suspend the Minister of Health in order to give the Minister time to focus on his defence in Court. We also call on the President to explain to the Zambian people his difference in approach over the cases of Hon Mabumba and Hon Sichalwe. Lastly, we call on the Zambia Police Service to gives the Zambian public a comprehensive update on their investigations into Hon Sichalwe’s case, including an explanation of why no action has been taken against him to date.”