FORMER Attorney General Musa Mwenye says it will take political will to fight corruption and a realisation that the fight is not only a legal issue, but an economic strategy.
And Mwenye says those who want to be in public service should realise that their goal is not becoming a multimillionaire, but serving the people.
In an interview with Martin Kalunga-Banda of Impact Hub recently, Mwenye said it would take political will to fight corruption.
He said no country in Zambia’s position had ever developed from that position without making corruption and the fight against corruption an economic strategy.
“It will take political will to fight corruption and a realisation that the fight against corruption is not only a legal issue but it’s an economic strategy. No country in our position has ever developed from this position without making corruption and the fight against corruption an economic strategy. And secondly on the back of that is to introduce a meritocracy, those have to go side by side. Because if you get to a place where the colour of my political regalia, my tribe or who I know is the only thing I need to get a contract to build a road, then you will have overpriced contracts. You will have low quality work and you would kill innovation that we need,” Mwenye said.
“We killed that meritocracy. We followed prescriptions that were not locally grown and basically obliterated our industry. We got rid of value addition and got back to mining only and rudimentary farming. And that is where we killed ourselves because manufacturing is what develops countries. I’m one of those who thinks that you can go only so far by harvesting natural resources. But also I think we got to a stage where corruption creeped in and patriotism went out of the wind.”
And Mwenye said those who wanted to be in public service should realise that their goal was not becoming multimillionaires but serving the people.
“We can still build. I think the institutions are still there. But we can only do that when we get rid of personal interest. People realise that when they get into those offices it’s service. At the end of the day if you are a business person and you choose to serve, you must realise that it is a sacrifice, you will loose money. If you want to be in public service you must realise that your goal is not becoming a multi millionaire. Yes you can live well, but it shouldn’t be to drive the latest cars, build mansions everywhere and have multiple lodges and flats. That’s not the goal. The goal is to serve the people. And so that’s where we lost it. We became corrupt and we lost our patriotism,” he said.
“For me what plays on my mind especially for high offices, like the Presidency, they are so weighty that if you do as President ascribe to the death penalty, which is debatable whether we should have it, and you were voted to office on the basis of that belief, if your very son is convicted and sentenced to death, the weight of that office requires you to sign the death warrant. And we must realise that that’s the weight of that office. It’s not to go there and do whatever you wish. It requires a very sober reflection on the weight of the office of President.”
Meanwhile, Mwenye said the most important attribute of an advisor or a person in a watchdog role was the ability to say no.
“It’s very clear to me, if you have in key positions, I have counted about 12 to 16, the most sober and strong men and women of spine, this country can change. And the most important attribute of an advisor or a person in a watchdog role that speaks to the President, is the ability to say no. And that’s the only way you will help leaders. Several times I told my own boss that it’s better I leave sir because I don’t recall this as what you employed me for. That to me is the only way you help leaders. You help them by being able to say ‘no, we will protect you even from yourself and we mean well’. Good leaders recognise strong people around them and they want such kind of people who protect them from even themselves. It’s a slippery slope into becoming a dictator if you don’t have people who will say ‘sir or mum I think we are going too far’,” he said.
Mwenye said aspired to see a Zambia where every citizen, regardless of their background, were given an opportunity to thrive and fulfil their aspirations and self actualisation.
“My aspiration is to see a Zambia where every Zambian no matter the background, the tribe, the origins or status of that person, is given an opportunity to thrive and fulfil their aspirations and self actualisation without regard to any of these barriers that block us. But also it is to see that our human resources, our natural resources and our financial resources are used completely for the benefit of this country. And I think for me the biggest problem that we have seen in this area is our weakness as Zambia sometimes, when we gravitate towards those offices to be willing instruments of unpatriotic conduct. Conduct that may be seen as injuring the country,” he said.
“I was a person without anyone to back me. Rising to the position of State Counsel and being Attorney General without any connections, without any pot of cash to pick from. That was because no matter the shortcomings, the Kaunda government and those who took over shortly after that maintained that spirit that we needed to maintain a meritocracy. And I think if we can establish a meritocracy of if I have a construction company, I have a consultancy company, the fruit of my work, the proof of my competency would be the only currency I need to be employed to do that contract, then we can build this country.”
Asked which Zambian leader inspired him the most, Mwenye said senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II.
“I actually admire her partially because she is my chief on my maternal side. But I think she deserves it because she merits it. She is one of the few traditional leaders who sits on the most prime land yet she has defended her land for the sake of her people in such a vigorous way that she has even acquired enemies within government. For me that shows a level of integrity that is rare in this day and age,” said Mwenye.