PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says the fight against corruption in Zambia has been corrupted because institutions of governance such as the courts of law mandated to dispense justice are failing to serve the public and protect the vulnerable.
And President Lungu has wondered whether investigative journalism still exists in Zambia, saying that the media is not doing enough to help government expose escalating levels of corruption in society.
Speaking during a virtual meeting with the Zambia Red Cross Society from State House, together with some regional stakeholders who complained about their properties being fraudulently sold without getting justice, President Lungu observed that the fight against corruption itself had been corrupted.
He blamed ineffective institutions of governance and laws for failing to deliver justice to the expectation of the citizenry.
“Only yesterday (Thursday), in here, I said, ‘the problem we have in this country is that the fight against corruption has been corrupted.’ This is exactly what you are saying. Now, you are talking about conspiracies between the lawyers who represent the Society and those in power, and in the end, the courts are being implicated. At the end, the poor Society has to just sign a consent order and they end up paying and we have to look for money to pay. It is corruption at its worst! What more corruption evidence do you need than that? So, such people should be named and shamed so that if the courts of law do not convict them, the courts of public opinion convict them so that at the end of the day, they cannot walk with their heads high and be the role model. It is a shame! But you have confessed that the new management or the new Society want to change the transformation and transform this Society and be seen for what it is, integrity and accountability and the need to support humanitarian causes,” President Lungu said.
“I think that is the way to go; there has to be a point to say, ‘we are breaking with the past’ and I think you are the team which will break with the past. So, for me, whilst here, I will support you. If it means revisiting some of these cases as long as we are not told this is the statute, ‘you should have come to court within 12 months or 12 years,’ we can study these cases, why not? Fraud is fraud and if people’s property has been stolen or vandalised, we should be up to the task by saying, ‘we have done our best as the Society, only that the law has failed us.’ In this case, if the law fails you, we will say, ‘can Parliament change the law?’ I know about property. The issue of property when I became President, I learnt how property has been squandered, stolen if I may use the term, from the Society and people are watching. The people who stole, these are still with us, they are free and some of them are aspiring for public office and you want to continue saying, ‘it’s business as usual’.”
President Lungu also said that there was need for Parliament to change laws on corruption if current laws were inadequate to stamp out the vice.
“The House of Parliament is sitting; it is there to change the laws. If the laws don’t help the people, because they are moribund, we are supposed to go to Parliament and say, ‘this law must be changed.’ I know the plight of the Red Cross Society because I found it when I became President: lots and lots of property has been stolen from the Society by people who were in charge of the responsibility and trusted to look after the affairs of the Society. So, now, here we are in 2021, we are still crying! We can’t cry forever; we need to name and shame the people involved and if the law is a hindrance, we can go back to the law-makers and say, ‘can we change the law so that these people are held accountable and answer to the rightful owners of this property, the Zambia people?,” President Lungu said.
“There is no way the Society can fail to get justice unless the players are all compromised! Here, you started saying, ‘you have challenges and one of them is mismanagement,’ that is the umbrella, mismanagement and beyond there, you started with legal cases, you have been misrepresented terribly! Then, there is an association called the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) where aggrieved parties on account of misrepresentation by professionals such as lawyers can go and say, ‘this lawyer is not worth the name, can we be compensated?’ Here, it is like we have lost cases because there has been conspiracy from what I understand involving some legal practitioners. When there are conspiracies between the client, the lawyer, who is representing and some powerful authorities as you have already said, then there is no justice.”
The Head of State said corruption should be fought with integrity.
“What I cry for is a situation where corruption is fought in earnest and with integrity, not just smearing each other with corruption, wanting to get into public office and when you get there, you continue with corruption. This is the problem we have in Zambia today. There are so many people who cry, ‘wolf wolf,’ when actually, they are the wolves! In the end, when you go to sleep, they end up preying on you, eating everything you have worked for. This is exactly what we are talking about. The Red Cross Society case is still alive and I think somebody should tell us what went wrong. At the end of the day, if it is the law that is inadequate, we challenge Parliament to change the laws. This fight is for all of us. The most important thing we need now is that if we are of integrity, donors will be happy, they will support us, they will give us more and more support. If we are questionable, dubious and apparently rotten to the core, they withdraw; in the end, we die. So, all donors want integrity and accountability,” he said.
And President Lungu wondered whether investigative journalism still existed in Zambia, complaining that the media was not doing enough to help government expose rising levels of corruption in society.
“That takes me to the PS, Mr (Amos) Malupenga, where are investigative journalists? Because you are renowned; I know you from way back. You embark on a case like that and say, ‘I want to know what happened to this building, which were once owned by the Zambia Red Cross Society? Who stole them?’ And you do intensive journalism and investigations and you write about it so that in the court of public opinion, we know that this man is not honourable, he is just a thief! That kind of thing should be done. That is the power of the press, the Fourth Estate is the media, and if the media does not help us, they just talk about corruption on the surface of it, yet they know that there is a good case here of corruption and people have lost property, and they sit back and say, ‘no, there is corruption.’ They should be the ones to help us so that if there are shortcomings in the process of prosecution or investigations, we know where the problem is and we uproot this hurdle so that in the end, people have justice,” said President Lungu.
“I am glad that you have come through, that you have highlighted your problems and through this interaction, I am sure most Zambians will take interest, particularly the media. PS Malupenga, the media, what has happened? Who owns the shop next door? They are people who would run with articles like that and show us, cut through the corporate veil and go beyond that and see who the shareholders are and everything else. It is possible; it makes journalism interesting and existing, we no longer have that.”
Earlier, Zambia Red Cross Society president Frackson Ngosa told the Head of State that the Society was in heavy debt owing to mismanagement, loss of its property and mounting legal fees because it had lost many cases owing to poor representation.
In a separate development on Thursday, President Lungu held a virtual meeting with members of the Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) where he assured journalists that the State would not allow anyone to harass them during the course of their duties.
The Head of State’s remarks followed the latest spate of violence at Mbala-based Radio Luswepo where PF cadres stormed the media outlet and damaged private property just to stop Democratic Party president Harry Kalaba from featuring live on-air.