PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says it is only a matter of time before he constitutes a commission of inquiry into the controversial privatisation process.

And Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) president Andrew Ntewewe says setting up a commission of inquiry into privatisation will help to find out what transpired during the process, which concluded two decades ago.

Speaking when he received a petition from students at State House, Thursday, President Lungu announced that he would soon constitute a commission of inquiry delving into the privatisation process, adding that the matter needed to be put to rest and that those found wanting would be answerable to the law.

“This matter has been on people’s minds and discussions have been held in various places. I have also had people pushing me on the subject matter. But like I said, the will of the people reigns supreme. Section 2 of the Inquiries Act allows me to set up a commission of inquiry and I am not obliged to consult anybody. But having heard the voices, which have been across the country, north, east, south and west, throughout the country, I will take time to reflect on this matter. And I will make a few consultations. What you have given me is a petition of signatures without giving terms of reference so I will have to sit with those who are versed with the matter of privatisation, historically, and those who are versed with the law to tell me what would be the terms of reference for the commission. Then we move in accordance with what the law provides,” said President Lungu.

“I think it’s a matter of time. We have to put this matter to rest and all those who were in it and are found wanting will have to answer to the people through the law. Whether people were sleeping or not, it doesn’t matter; what is important is justice. The commission will be constituted and all I am looking for are these gentlemen, ministers and others, who are conversant with matters to give you what we could consider to be appropriate terms of reference. And then we begin identifying which citizens can be on this commission. This is the patriotism that we want to see in the young people of this country,”

And speaking on behalf of the students, Ntewewe charged that privatisation of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) was illegal.

“We have 10 organisations who have taken the lead to move this petition before you. On behalf of more 40,000 citizens of the Republic of Zambia, I stand here to thank you. Our prayer, as citizens, is that you can help the entire country to put to rest a matter that has dodged us for a very long time. The matter that has dodged us for a long time, your Excellency, is the matter of privatisation. What happened in the 1990s and the early 2000s was disgraceful! Companies were sold for a song, others were undervalued. What happened is that some individuals formed companies and sold national assets. Your Excellency, I find that kind of behaviour unacceptable, unconstitutional, illegal and criminal! Your Excellency, the group gathered here today is a group of mere citizens and these citizens are coming from all walks of life,” said Ntewewe.

“Had it not been for COVID-19, we could have filled the whole State House grounds because this message is coming from across the whole country. We have come with the petition, which requires you, your Excellency, to set up a commission of inquiry into how the privatisation process happened, how it was managed and we also want to pay particular attention to those that evaluated, those that negotiated and those that made decisions on behalf of the country. We want this matter to be dealt with. We come before you because our parents lost jobs, died because of privatisation. Because of privatisation, others suffered depression, our parents continue to live in poverty and destitution. This is a cry of the citizens of the Republic of Zambia.”