LUSAKA Lawyer Elias Chipimo says the amnesty from prosecution granted to Faith Musonda has set a bad precedent because plunderers will now only be forfeiting part of the looted assets and keep the rest, in a bid to go scot free.
And Chipimo says politics in the previous regime were too toxic for progressive ideas.
Last week, the State said it entered into an undertaking not to institute criminal proceedings against former ZNBC broadcaster Faith 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.
But commenting on the development in an interview, Chipimo said it was a bad precedent.
He argued that corruption cases should be dealt with in a public and transparent way instead of relying on private negotiations between the purported perpetrator of a crime and enforcement agencies.
“This is a bad precedent! I have always said that the way that you deal with cases of corruption is you have to do them in a public and transparent way. Relying on private negotiations between the purported perpetrator of a crime and the enforcement agencies when you had such endemic corruption is simply going to aid and abet the problem rather than fix it. Because we don’t know how much was purported to be legally acquired, so we are now left to speculate whether this was 20 percent of the potential alleged wealth that was accumulated in a manner that is still questionable or if it was 50 percent,” Chipimo said.
“Now you can imagine the signal that it sends to anybody that might end up in a similar situation where they are having to forfeit the assets is that ‘well, as long as I can keep 50 percent of it, I can just declare perhaps the remaining 50 and hand over to the State [and] get away scot free.’ Transparency is important, this is not something that should be left to a private conclusion of the individuals at the center of any controversial issue and the enforcement agencies.’
Chipimo said the conclusion of Musonda’s case left the public speculating that there could be side deals that were done.
“When I was in NAREP, I always advocated setting up a separate commission that would be a public commission so that all the information would be available to the public. There has to be a process whereby amnesty could only be allowed if basic conditions were met. First of all, if there was a full declaration of what had been purportedly misappropriated or illegally acquired, secondly that there was commitment to give back some or all of the wealth and that is something that will be determined in an objective manner with a very clear formula that is public and transparent. And the adequate information about how that wealth was acquired, was made publicly available,” he said.
“I am stressing transparency because then that avoids the problem of people cutting side deals. I am not saying that was the case here but it certainly leaves everybody concluding that, that is a very real possibility. The lack of transparency, the sense of impunity within which it has been concluded really leaves me as a Zambian concerned if this is the approach that is going to be taken. That is why we need a complete shift in how we are addressing these issues. We need to be clear that any allegations around the misappropriation or theft are properly scrutinized in a public manner in a way that gives confidence to the public that no side deals are being cut.”
And Chipimo said politics were too toxic in the previous regime.
“I am trying to forge a path that can still have me working with vulnerable and underserved communities. Just addressing the needs that are there in these areas that literally have no support. I was trying to do it through the public sector because if you can change things at the policy level, you can achieve rapid improvement than if you are trying to do it by targeting interventions in the private sector. At some point in order to be effective, they still need government interactions and interventions. But having realized that the politics were just too toxic for progressive ideas, I decided to try and find a way to do this through the private sector while I still have energy,” Chipimo said.
“Yes, in the previous regime, it was very difficult to promote ideas if people did not see an opportunity to make money for themselves. And so that made it difficult to push an agenda that was beneficial for the country. It was easier to push an agenda if it could benefit individuals who were making decisions that needed government interventions, rather than even if it did not benefit the individual, but benefited the country. That was very difficult to achieve. Things are still problematic but I am sure that it takes time but I think the private sector must really be given the freedom to develop the thinking that can take this country forward. They have to work in conjunction with the public policy but the drive must come from the private sector and not enough of that is happening yet.”
Asked if he would rejoin politics, Chipimo said he wanted to be away from politics.
“I have told people that as far as the East is far from the West is how I want to keep myself from politics. Right now, my focus is really on how to ensure that enterprises; micro, small, medium and large scale can thrive. And to do that, there must be access to affordable credit, there must be support in terms of guarantees that remove the requirement for this heavy collateral that many small enterprises don’t have. There must be capacity building for these SMEs, there must be support for mentorship for individuals that are at an early stage or that are growing enterprises, even for those that are thinking about developing business ideas. And for me that is where we have to place a lot of our priorities. I am now working with SMEs more directly, I am mentoring enterprises and individuals that run business,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chipimo said it would be difficult for UPND to achieve all its promises because the base from where it was operating was badly eroded.
“It is going to be difficult for them to achieve all the things they have spoken about simply because the base from which we are having to operate has been so badly eroded. I think that they may have underestimated what it is going to take. But it is not too late to take the steps that will ensure that we can achieve the most out of this new opportunity. It is an opportunity to operate according to systems, operate on the basis of merit, operate on the basis of a pursuit of excellence, operate on the basis of strategic vision for our country. Even if you look at some of the challenges of dealing with capitalization and the need to revamp the economy, certain olden radical things can be done, for example, I can let us waive duty on all imports and perhaps charge the VAT. I know we signed the economic Free Trade Area agreement, it will make trade between Africa much more robust,” said Chipimo.
Chipimo suggested that Kafue town should be a new location for the capital city.