LEADER of the opposition in Parliament Brian Mundubile says ZAMMSA’s decision to distribute drugs which were supplied by Honeybee is a grave error.
And Mundubile says the fight against corruption will only succeed if it is done within the confines of the law, unlike what has been witnessed.
Addressing journalists, Monday, Mundubile wondered why Honeybee drugs were still being stored when the UPND promised to destroy them once elected.
“Our advice to the government has been very consistent where we have said when you are governing, your statements must be consistent and based on policy pronouncements. Now if statements are made for purposes of appeasing the people, unnecessarily exciting the general public, as the English adage goes ‘lies have very short legs.’ The campaign against Honeybee and drugs that were supplied by Honeybee was a heightened campaign. The debate brought a lot of concern and worry to the Zambian citizens because when you talk about medicines, because when you talk about medicine and bad medicine as such, you are talking about the lives of the people,” he said.
“The Zambian people indeed were very concerned at that time that a government could procure expired drugs and endanger people’s lives. The government at the time assured the UPND in opposition was very categorical where they said the moment they took over power, they would ensure they get rid of those drugs and they supply quality drugs to the citizens. It’s five months down the line and the question is, why are those drugs there and on top of that we are being told these drugs were actually distributed in hospitals and then the following day you get a very lame excuse. It is very unfortunate indeed, where ZAMMSA is now saying it was just an error. That is a grave error. If at all that it is true, we would expect action on those involved because they have endangered people’s lives.”
He urged government to give a clear position on the safety of Honeybee drugs.
“First of all, this issue for expired drugs, the government has to come out very clearly what the position is. Are these drugs expired, if so why are we still keeping them? If the drugs are not expired, can they come out clean instead of wasting taxpayers’ money by destroying those drugs? My suspicion, which is the suspicion of most of the Zambians, is that maybe those drugs are actually fit for use, that’s the reason why they are still there and that’s the reason why they were released to those hospitals for use. As the government, they wanted to make political capital out of it, they said so much, statements that cannot be defended today. So we are very saddened and we are demanding that the government comes out clean on this particular matter to ensure we put the matter to rest and also clear this particular issue in people’s minds,” he said.
“Going forward, let us see some consistency in policies, I think five months is a long time. There is no excuse as to why the government would have not settled up to now. I don’t think we should continue on this trajectory where people keep on changing statements, people are jumping and diving, kicking corners at every juncture. Ministers must be told that when you stand up to make a policy statement as a minister, you are giving the government’s position and the government’s position should not change every so often, it reduces the confidence that people are going to have in this government.”
And Mundubile said the fight against corruption was only going to succeed if it was done within the confines of the law.
“Like we have said before, the fight against corruption will only succeed if it is done within the confines of the law, that is one. Then two, there has got to be consistency in that what we have seen in the past has been more of political persecution more than fight against corruption. It has been targeted arrests, arbitrary arrests with the aim of creating an impression that the statements made by the Head of State previously concerning corrupt individuals and corruption are indeed fulfilled,” he said.
“What we expect is that when the government embarks on the fight against corruption, it should be a genuine fight against corruption. In the recent past, there have been reports in the UPND made by UPND officials against ministers for instance. Have you seen any action against those ministers? Has ACC moved to try and investigate? Because allegations have been made and I think there is nothing to wait for. We expect ACC to swing into action and investigate those allegations as it were.”
Mundubile insisted that law enforcement agencies lost their independence when they were moved to the Office of the President.
“Previously we have expressed concern Statutory Instrument number 11 (23) were the functions of the DEC, ACC and other investigative wings were taken under the Office of the President. We said there will be no independence in these institutions and it will be difficult for them to function freely. So we are vindicated now because that is exactly what is happening. Investigations are selective, there is no consistency, you can’t see a pattern where somebody, a senior party official makes a serious allegation against a sitting minister and there is no investigation against that particular minister yet you would hear other political opponents been investigated everyday, searched everyday and carrying screaming headlines in the tabloids,” he said.
“We are saying the fight against corruption must continue but it must be done diligently. There is nothing wrong with investigations being done silently and once these investigative wings take these matters to court and secure conviction, then you can have screaming headlines because then it is done. Now imagine how many headlines we have seen in the recent past; families are destroyed, people’s professional reputation destroyed all for the show to show that there is indeed a fight against corruption. It’s something we have seen before under the Mwanawasa administration and I think we should learn lessons from there.”
Meanwhile, Mundubile said it was disappointing that President Hichilema’s A team was failing to perform.
“The President had assured us that he was going to appoint a cabinet that was going to impress all the citizens and he took his time because he was looking for the best. I know he carefully chose my colleagues in cabinet and I want to agree with him that most of the colleagues sitting in cabinet now are equal to the task and I think a good job was done there. What is most worrying is that the President says he has been let down by his A team. Then the question ones asks is if the President got it all wrong this time, when he got his silver bullet to say I’ve my best team and the best team has failed to perform, why should we trust him when he picks his team B. So as Zambians we are now worried that the A team has failed to perform, they are letting the President down. The permanent secretaries of course it was expected,” said Mundubile