PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says the clique of criminals whom law enforcement agencies are currently pursuing have now started teaching his ministers and permanent secretaries how to siphon money meant for the poor.

And President Hichilema has vowed that he will not back down from the corruption fight no matter how much noise the “clique” makes on social media and in the press, insisting that the fight is targeted at wrongdoers, not PF.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema says in the last seven years, lawyers at the Ministry of Justice have colluded with the “clique” to siphon public resources, resulting in payment of huge penalties due to badly crafted contracts.

Speaking during the swearing in ceremony of the Teaching Service Commission chairperson Daphne Chimuka and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) Director General Mary Chirwa, Monday, President Hichilema said the corrupt clique was teaching ministers and permanent secretaries how to siphon money from the public.

“Let us agree as a nation [that] corruption, theft is wrong, there is no middle ground. Diverting attention, the clique is employing people all over even you officers, you Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, teaching you the ways of siphoning money away from the public. Madam Chirwa, those are your clients. From the old order to the new order now. Just a few days ago, somebody in Eastern Province, they have heard our message of Anti Corruption, they concoct a tender process to award a tender to the clique at huge prices. Minister of Justice, we spoke, we are living with contracts that were signed by the lawyers who are supposed to represent citizens and protect citizens and putting clauses in there that are penalising, taking money from citizens, penalty clauses,” President Hichilema said.

“Government gives a contract to a supplier, the supplier does not give out any money in there, there is a clause for down payment 20 percent. If the contract is $100 million the down payment is $20 million, which means the people of Zambia are financing the supplier, technically, financially, that is what it means. Where is the risk to the supplier? Isn’t part of giving a contract to access financial capacity, working capital?”

And President Hichilema insisted that the fight against corruption was targeted at criminals, not PF.

“In our profession, what is wrong is wrong, there is no middle ground. I am following what is going on social media, people are debating ‘no this is ethnic victimisation, the fight against corruption, this is getting at PF’, no! It is none of that, what is there is that what is wrong is wrong. Taking away money that belongs to the public is wrong. If the chief executive of the Drug Enforcement Commission sees a gray area that this may be wrong, this may be right, maybe they sit in the middle, there is no middle ground. It is the duty of Madam Chirwa to make sure that money meant for desks through CDF is not taken by a clique,” he said.

“I return to that terminology, a clique. They have now started fighting back, they are behaving like what happens in our communities, somebody steals from the window selling at a market, they run away, they are chased, at a distance away from the point of stealing increases, they start pointing in front and say kawalala (thief). That is what is happening, the clique is now employing the media. I want to talk to the colleagues in the media not to generate stories diverting our attention away from following up money that belongs to the public by shouting kawalala (thief). Please we should not fall for that.”

Meanwhile, President Hichilema said in the last seven years, controlling officers in ministries were colluding with lawyers at the Ministry of Justice to steal money away from the public through bad contracts.

“In the last seven years, it became a tradition that controlling officers in the Ministries, at Finance were colluding with lawyers in Justice to steal from the people. You put another clause, $100 million contract, down payment is 20 percent, it means $20 million. No work has been done, immediately $20 million is invoiced, government has no money, in that 20 million invoice, then Justice put a clause that provides for penalty interest charges. Government pays $10 million when it is still looking for $10 million to make a 20 million down payment, government is billed penalty charges,” President Hichilema said.

“And there was an Attorney General there, aikona man! Then in penalties alone, the government is billed that hypothetical contract over years $52 million over time. What is the job of the Attorney General? What is the job of the Ministry of Justice? It is to protect citizens. You expect me to be afraid as President, to say no to that and you want to start calling me names, call me more names, I will be relentless. Even if I stand alone, even if you threaten pulling down this government, it is not me you are pulling down, you are pulling down the people of Zambia, absolutely no aorta of fear at all.”

He said there was need to review all existing contracts.

“So Attorney General, Justice Ministry support madam Mary Chirwa, support ACC, support DPP, support those institutions, don’t collude with them as the case is clear now we have to review those contracts. That domestic debt you hear is $6/$7 billion of domestic debt, a lot of it sits there as penalties from our own money. Now I went to school and I was educated by the citizens for me not to agree to such conduct. The fact that there is a contract signed there [and] approved by the Attorney General, a government lawyer…and these lawyers you have put in the Ministries willy nilly approving contracts are also colluding. You are making her (Chirwa) job a bit difficult, because when the contract is there, it assumes everything is okay. If you are not trained properly, but you say ‘but the contract is here’, but was that contract protecting citizens? No! When we go for such issues, ‘no this is against PF’ aikona, did you steal for PF? This fight against corruption knows no PF, it only knows corrupt people,” he said.

“Two, three months we have now established the bad news for the corrupt, exactly what was the pattern in there. So even you as journalists, when we are asked to run stories covering people who have taken money from you, that is why your pay is low, if they did not steal the money you will probably be paid better. Meal allowances were withdrawn because the money was gone, there was no free education, we have restored it, where are we getting the money? By taking it away from thieves. We must stand together as a nation on this matter.”

President Hichilema said if the fight against corruption was relaxed, it would damage the country by damaging the economy.

“I can assure you that if we relax on the fight against corruption, if we don’t support madam Mary Chirwa here, we are damaging ourselves and the economy will remain down there. No matter how much work we do on the economic investment side, all that will go down the drain on the consumption side. Secretary to Cabinet, support this Lady, Finance, support this lady and her team, all of us State House, advisors in State House support this lady. There are not many like her left because in the last 10 years, people got polluted all over the show. If we do not stand together against corruption, seven years of a leaking bucket, no matter how much water we pour, I used to say it in the opposition, I have now seen it, the bucket will not fill, the water will continue leaking. I hear the debates going on, we got too used to disorder, we try and bring order, noise, who is driving that noise? A small clique of beneficiaries. Me I am a woman, I am a wife married to 18 million Zambians, I cannot accept a situation that I allow money taken away from my 18 million husbands only to a small clique of less than 10 families,” said President Hichilema.

“The clique had invested in directing opinion [on] social media, some pages, print media. Even you, who got something, let me remind you, you are getting pittances, they are getting millions and Billions of Dollars. What is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, there is no middle ground. Have you heard a judge hearing a case and says ‘I am making a ruling on this matter before me and the ruling is that it is neutral. But why is the country wanting to move in a neutral position on clear matters? So Madam Chirwa there is a lot, you know, let us get going. Propose the changes you want. There is no sacred cow, not even one.”