THE Anti-Corruption Commission’s decision to repossess Faith Musonda’s K65 million without subjecting her to an arrest and prosecution following her admission of wrongdoing has angered some citizens who feel it’s a slap on the wrist.
But Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) has called on Zambians to give the UPND government room to fulfil their promise of granting conditional amnesty to plunderers who voluntarily return what belongs to the state.
Last week, the Anti-Corruption Commission announced that it had entered into an undertaking not to institute criminal proceedings against Musonda after she admitted wrongdoing and surrendered the K65 million, US$57,900 and a house in New Kasama, which properties were acquired through corrupt practices.
Many citizens turned to social media to express their outrage over the development, as they criticised the Hakainde Hichilema-led UPND government for being lenient on corruption suspects.
“Only in Zambia [does such happen]. It’s possible to negotiate with a criminal and set her free. What about what she had spent. You’re setting a bad precedent,” stated Charles Ngosa in reaction to the news.
George Bwalya: So you mean people should steal big, admit and escape justice just like that?! Some of these laws only meant for the rich must not exist! The poor are rotting in jail for stealing tooth picks. There is something fishy about this Case, how can someone Walk to freedom without telling us the source of those bags of money? Why then not disclose the source of those bags of money to ensure that all those involved are made to face the law? From the way this has been handled it seems there is a godfather who gave her the money and has been shielded together with his tandem of thieves… This is what is even more irritating. Us we wanted to know the money source!!”
Dave Mwila said “A lot of PF thieves will escape prosecution in the same manner! There would be no lessons learnt!”
On Twitter, the “FaithMusonda” hashtag was trending as more Zambians poured in their expression of hurt and displeasure.
@Mutale197, twitted “I should become a criminal, and after I make a profit, I’ll admit the crimes and surrender the money. They’ve started promoting criminality.”
But responding to a press query, Kalungu said there was a possibility of Musonda being turned into a State witness at a later stage should her disclosure lead to the investigation and prosecution of bigger fish.
“There is fear that other plunderers can come forward and demand amnesty from prosecution in order to circumvent punishment of the law. We need to remember that amnesty is the prerogative of the state through its law enforcement agencies and only when it’s beneficial to the state would [it] be granted and it is highly conditional. We need to give ACC room to make follow up investigations and whenever they are ready [they will] inform the public with gauged updates. Let us be cautious not to push the Law enforcement agencies to announce cases prematurely which later come to be stale. We also need to remember that the UPND government promised that they would call for the amnesty for those who plundered the national resources to be given the chance to return what belongs to the state voluntarily before the law goes after them if they do not do so,” Kalungu said.
“We are also calling upon the public to give the UPND government room to fulfill their promise to grant conditional amnesty to plunderers to return what belongs to the state. At the same time, we urge the UPND government not to be too procrastinating in their actions as the people need answers to plundered resources and they need these answers very quickly. Amnesty indeed is another way of fighting corruption when and if well applied.”
Kalungu said ACC’s move to apply section 80 of the Anti-Corruption Act on Musonda was the right decision.
“As Transparency International Zambia, our position on the ACC application of its section 80 of its Act on Ms Musonda is right, in order and [a] well considered view and decision. As things stand, TIZ feels the deal between ACC and Ms Musonda is the right one, and we say so for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the ACC acted within the law as mandated to the commission by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012. The action is one of the provisions of this Act. It is an option that is at the ACC’s disposal depending on the case at hand as long as the conditions are fulfilled to the satisfaction of the ACC. In recent past years, we have noted that the ACC has been poorly resourced to be able to successfully train, instigate and prosecute high profile cases of corruption. Taking up such a mammoth case may only spell failure,” he said.
Kalungu argued that the country had spent money on investigations in the past which yielded nothing.
“We are coming from the past with a history of spending more on investigations than what they yielded. In 2002 the Government of Zambia established an intragovernmental Task force where investigation and trials took almost eight years, consuming resources of both the Zambian government and contributing partners without any civil or criminal liability attached to former president Chiluba. In this situation, we remain with the big question: was the investigation and the huge expenditures worth it? A question for another day,” he said.
Kalungu cited an example of former labour minister Austin Liato’s case, insisting that such cases took years to be concluded.
“Zambia has another case of reference of Mr Austin Liato who was found in possession of K2.1 million and was charged with the same case as that slapped on Ms Musonda of being in possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to section one (1) of the forfeiture of proceeds of crime Act number 19 of 2010 of the laws of Zambia. A case which was successfully defended by the current Speaker of the National Assembly Nellie Mutti and Mr Patrick Mvunga among others leading to the court ordering that Mr Liato be given back his money and farm,” he said.
“And as seen from the Liato case, such prosecutions take years to be concluded and the end result is not assured of success. It is 50-50 but going with the precedent and poorly resourced ACC, the case had potential to be lost. Arguably Ms Musonda had money to mount a powerful defense team. We assume that all the above considerations and many more must have come into play as the ACC was making a decision to grant Ms Musonda amnesty after full disclosure.”
And Kalungu said there was a possibility of Musonda being turned into a State witness at a later stage should her disclosure lead to the investigations and prosecution of bigger fish.
“We can assume that what we are not told at the moment is the content of the full disclosure and what the follow up to the full disclosure could be. And logically the ACC cannot disclose everything to the public at this moment; we must remember that questioning Ms Musonda can be the beginning of other investigations as follow ups to the disclosure and in that case if ACC disclosed too much information to the public, it may render the investigation compromised. We can assume that there is a possibility of a deal that Faith could be turned into a state witness at a later stage should her disclosure lead to the investigations and prosecution of bigger fish,” said Kalungu.
“It is like you catch five big criminals but you don’t have much evidence or eye witnesses then you turn one of the criminals into a state witness in order to convict and put the other four criminals away from society while you reform the other, these are common practices prosecuting teams make. You would have saved society by getting rid of the four criminals, we need to weigh the cost and benefit analysis of this case. We as TIZ we feel the benefits are more.