OUTGOING Transparency International Zambia Chapter president Reuben Lifuka says the corrupt have now reached a point of impunity where they are no longer scared of the law.
And Lifuka says contrary to Vice-President Inonge Wina’s assertion that members of parliament who have been making huge donations in the recent past run successful businesses, there seems to have been a miracle which has made them rich.
Speaking on Capital FM’s “The Big Issue”, Monday, Lifuka said the corrupt were not scared of the law because in most cases, they knew they had political backing.
“The corrupt have now reached a point of impunity, they are not scared of the law. The long arm of the law does not scare them anymore because they know in most cases, they have the political backing. You have heard and seen how those that have alleged to be corrupt whenever they are called by ACC, they will put up a show, draw all manner of cadres or supporters to accompany them. Impunity settles in and that is where you start seeing the bigger problem of corruption, state capture. State capture is referencing to private interests, really taking over the shaping of public policy because you have few people who have the interest to protect whether it is accessing government contracts or accessing power, or retaining power because they want to have this extractive political corruption to their benefit, they capture the state. So they now determine public policy direction, budget direction,” Lifuka said.
Lifuka said the PF government had failed to provide decisive leadership to deal with corruption.
“Transparency International Zambia is not in the business of appeasing anyone and it is not in the business of entertainment. It is in the business of dealing with a serious problem. The corruption we are talking about is serious, corruption has turned our country to a large extent to an unmitigated disaster because it is depriving people of resources of services. So we shouldn’t take corruption lightly. The corruption we are seeing has been progressive, it has just not happened today, we have been seeing corruption happening overtime even when you go back to the UNIP era,” Lifuka said.
“What the PF have failed to do is to provide decisive leadership to deal with this growing cancer of corruption. Particularly because the PF came on an anti corruption platform, they were quite strong about the corruption that was in the MMD under president Rupiah Banda, they have fallen short on that because they have not taken decisive action. We have seen the PF adopt a similar stance like what president Chiluba had ‘give me the evidence’. We still see the same altitude. What we are also seeing is that corruption is becoming endemic in the entire fabric of the public sector and the private sector. We have seen more people who should not have access to public tenders having public tenders. We have seen overpricing of tenders.”
He predicted that Zambia was unlikely to perform well on the Transparency International Corruption perception index for the year 2020.
“If you look at the performance of Zambia on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, we continue to drop on the corruption index. 2019, we didn’t do as well on the corruption perception index. It is something that we have noted and it is going to be a matter of concern even as we go next year. So if we continue at the same trajectory like we have had in the past, corruption is going to become worse by the time we are going into 2021. My expectation is that we are not going to do pretty well on the corruption perception index for 2020. We are already at 35, we may even drop further on the corruption perception index,” he said.
And Lifuka said it was unfortunate that election campaigns had now become a platform for most Ministers to dole out cash.
“Unfortunately, we have reduced our election campaigns to now a big eating spree. It is time to appease voters, we have seen Ministers dole out cash. The question that I ask myself is are we going to vote for that Minister or that politician on the basis of the depth of their pockets or on the depths of their character and the vision of this country? If Zambians wanted to elect Father Christmas, they would have done that and Father Christmas would be giving us all these donations everyday. There is nothing wrong with a politician providing support to a community, but there is every wrong with a politician who does that without being held accountable for their sources of money,” Lifuka said.
He disagreed with Vice-President Wina’s position on the members of parliament who were dishing out money.
“We have been advocating for lifestyle audits and the Vice-President on the floor of Parliament has been very strong in saying we shouldn’t do that, because in her argument, the members of parliament do declare on an annual basis their assets, incomes and liabilities. This is part of section six of the parliamentary ministerial code of conduct. Nowhere is the problem with that declarations, firstly we have been following up on the declarations made by the Vice-President, the Ministers and the MPs and we have noted that in a number of years, it has not been consistent, not everyone has been making a declaration; number 2 these are self declarations so I can put anything in that self declaration. So getting back to the Ministers having their own businesses, the only thing I can say to the Vice-President is that these Ministers have not dropped from Mars, we live with them and even when they were being elected they were coming from our communities so we know them,” said Lifuka.
“They were not businessmen then and they were not making these donations then, so something must have happened. There is a miracle that has happened in this short period of time that they have been in office for them to just doll out cash. So there has to be accountability. Here is where the problem lies. When the leadership becomes reckless in the way which they spend money or are not being held accountable it trickles down to the lower levels.”
Meanwhile, several people from civil society and government called in to wish Lifuka well as his term of office as TIZ president comes to an end. Among the callers were Justice Minister Given Lubinda, NGOCC board chairperson Mary Mulenga, ActionAid executive director Nalucha Ziba and Choma central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa.
Lifuka will, however, remain vice-chairperson of Transparency International at global level.