If you become rich by virtue of being a politician, then you are thief, says constitutional lawyer John Sangwa.

And Sangwa says Dr Kenneth Kaunda is living a humble and peaceful life because he did not steal when he was in government.

Reacting to remarks attributed to Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo who was defending the wealth accumulated by President Edgar Lungu’s daughter Tasila while making reference to Dr Kaunda’s family, Sangwa said the minister’s understanding of governance showed how depraved the country’s leadership had become.

According to the Daily Revelation, Lusambo wondered what was special about K2 million that Panji Kaunda could report Tasila to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The publication also quoted Lusambo saying PF member Colonel Panji Kaunda and his brothers missed an opportunity to better their lives when their father, Dr Kenneth Kaunda was president for 27 years, saying “when you are an idiot, it doesn’t mean that even the next person has to be an idiot.”

But commenting on this in an interview, Sangwa argued that leadership was about having an opportunity to steal, but deciding not to do it.

“You cannot become wealthy after going into politics, no! If at all you are driven by money, you must have that money before going into politics. Politics is a service. It’s not designed to make you rich. If you become rich by virtue of being a politicians, then you are thief,” Sangwa said.

“You are now scared of leaving office because you know what you have done. So you start creating fictions about your eligibility to stand. You create another fiction through Bill 10, you begin to imagine development goals, you begin telling lies to people about what you have built. Building a flyover bridge is not development. Development means reducing unemployment and creating jobs and wealth for the people. Building a road network with borrowed money is not development, you cannot boast over that. Any idiot can borrow money and spend it, but not any person can generate money.”

Sangwa urged those who knew the truth to rise and defend Dr Kaunda.

“When the MMD was fighting Kaunda, they told the people lies. They said Kaunda had stollen millions of dollars, but when Kaunda left office, they never proved a single piece of evidence to prove those allegations. The only thing they accused him of was stealing was books from State House, and they were able to search Kaunda for the whole day at the warehouse where he was storing books. That was the only thing that they could accuse Kaunda of. The other crime was a tramped up charge of treason; that he was involved with Captain Solo. But there was no evidence to that effect. I am not saying Kaunda is a saint, but whatever wrongs Dr Kaunda did while in office, it did not include stealing public resources. We can also not accuse Kaunda of ignoring the will of the people. He respected the will of the people. That is why, in 1990 when we started advocating for the return to multi-party system, Kaunda had nothing to fear about losing power, he said let’s put this issue to the referendum. When he noticed that the people were so determined and he was going to lose, he abandoned the referendum and saved the country, a lot of money. Instead of a referendum, he abolished the one party State and appointed a Constitution Commission to draft the new Constitution, headed by Professor Mvunga,” Sangwa recalled.

“One of the most difficult things that honest people face is defending themselves. Well meaning Zambians should come to the defence of Dr Kaunda and his family. This is one man who cannot defend himself. The problem in this country is that people who know the truth invariably choose to stay quiet. It is sad that the elders in our society, those who have read or have an understanding of the history of this country have failed to come out in the open to defend the Kaundas. The worst thing that can happen in a country is for people who know the truth to keep quiet. They should be able to speak out when we have such senseless and baseless accusations against Dr Kaunda or any other person. We must learn to give credit where it is due. Kaunda was not a thief when he was at State House and he is not a thief today.”

Sangwa insisted that Dr Kaunda led a simple life because he did not exploit power to accumulate wealth.

“Kaunda has a heartbreaking story. After Kaunda was released from Mukobeko Maximum Prison, He had no place to stay. He ended up staying in a rented house in Kalundu. We went to visit Kaunda with some friends from the Commonwealth who were trying to mediate, because that place had been gazetted into a prison. This was around 1997 during the Captain Solo coup d’état. The house was near a swamp, and I have never seen so many mosquitoes in a house in my life the ones I saw in Kaunda’s place. I came out very heartbroken. The former president could not even afford to buy mosquito repellent,” Sangwa recalled.

“There is no way somebody who had stolen money would live a life like that. My partner and I were part of the team that represented Kaunda when he was declared stateless, but we never sent bills, because we looked at it as national service to a man who had served this country diligently. We found it a joke to turn a president who had ruled for 27 years and declare him stateless and say he was a foreigner. That damaged the country. We cannot glorify theft of government resources. We have to glorify and reward hard work, people who make money through legitimate means. Let’s not forget that Kaunda made sacrifices, he went to jail. How many presidents have gone to jail like Kaunda for the sake of this country? Our founding fathers and their families deserve respect. That is why Kaunda was able to introduce the leadership code. In fact, the rule in Kaunda time was that if you are a leader, you were not allowed to have any business interests. So let’s restore our values.”

He said Dr Kaunda’s family had nothing to be ashamed of.

“So the people of Zambia who know the truth about Kaunda should stand up and clarify the position about why he is where he is today. That is very important, I don’t need to like Kaunda in order to say the truth about him, the truth is the truth. Let’s not try to rewrite history. It is very difficult to defend yourself when you are attacked, but let the people that know the truth come out. Kaunda’s family has nothing to be ashamed of, in fact they must be very proud. Kaunda did his part, he served the people and when he saw that the people he was serving didn’t want him anymore, he said ‘it’s okay, I will go’. You cannot force yourself on a people who don’t want you, that is what public service is all about. If people don’t want you to serve them, you respect their will,” Sangwa said.

“Look, Kaunda doesn’t go to those fancy hospitals abroad when he needs medical attention. Even today, if he fell sick, he would go to the University Teaching Hospital here in Lusaka. He has faith in his own institutions that he created. Not these new money leaders who, whenever they have a problem they fly to Sandton. So when we have people in government mocking Kaunda, it shows you how morally depraved the leadership is.”

He wondered what work Tasila did to have such kind of money.

“If Tasila, for example, has that kind of money, what work does she do? Kaunda’s children were never summoned to ACC to go and explain their wealth and they are all in Zambia, they didn’t need to ran away. If they are in poverty, they are enjoying their poverty in Zambia like the rest of us. But these will be thinking of running away when there is a change of government. Unfortunately, there is nowhere you can ran to these days, no country can take you is you are fugitive criminal,” said Sangwa.