GOVERNANCE activist Rueben Lifuka says UPND is sending mixed signals in the fight against corruption as they do not seem to understand the full magnitude of the problem.
Meanwhile, Lifuka says while UPND was ready for elections, they were not extremely ready for the running of government.
Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV, Sunday, Lifuka said UPND’s approach to the fight against corruption left much to be desired.
“I think the approach that we have taken in fighting corruption is one that leaves a lot to be desired. I have argued that the UPND needs a comprehensive strategy in fighting corruption. At the moment, they are sending mixed signals. In one breath, we are told that they are being methodical and they would like to investigate and prosecute all cases of corruption. In another, we keep hearing all these calls for those that have stolen money from public office to come forward and essentially declare what they have stolen,” he said.
“So in one breath, the government is willing to go the conviction based route as far as asset forfeiture is concerned but they are also pronouncing themselves on none conviction based asset recovery. The calls to fight corruption have not started today. There were many instances in the past where former president [Edgar] Lungu would have called for dialogue but he never did that. Why is he saying there is hypocrisy? What was he promised by President Hichilema that he is walking back from? That seems to be the point. There has been an impression given that investigations would not be done but now government seems to be going after former PF leaders in investigating crime.”
Lifuka said UPND was not providing confidence that they understood the full magnitude of the problem of corruption.
“People say we waste a lot of time in wanting to lift immunity of former Presidents and investigate criminal activities or corruption. If a President conducts themselves in a wrong [manner], there should be no basis whatsoever for anyone in the country to even raise concerns that the immunity of the former president should be lifted. How do we ensure that our leaders serve in high morality and maintain the integrity of leaders? Then we will not have recourse, let alone to remove immunity. That is why we need to look at the fight against corruption, not just at the legal part but also integrity. We are not doing enough to build integrity,” Lifuka said.
“We need to build integrity among those in public office and young upcoming politicians so that we get a cadre of politicians that are upright. Right now, the UPND is not providing that confidence that they understand the full magnitude of the problem of corruption. They are a bit reactive. This is what is worrisome for me. When I listen to the Minister of Health in Parliament saying ‘now we have ghost facilities so we are going to do some investigation’, this is a bit of chance finding. The UPND had come into power with a clear conviction that they would fight corruption.”
And Lifuka noted that the corrupt always fought back, warning that delaying investigations would make them bold enough to speak out.
“We can still build unity whilst holding leaders accountable. Integrity should not be sacrificed simply because you want to create that unity. Therefore, if any of the former leaders, including former president Lungu are found wanting, we should not turn a blind eye to the fact they have been found wanting, all in the name of trying to build unity. It will be extremely wrong for the UPND to do that because the confidence in the anti corruption fights will be eroded. I think it will turn into a shared if the UPND does not put its house in order. The reason why we see what I think is impunity for those that are being alleged to have been involved in corruption is because of the time it has taken for the UPND to get its act together,” Lifuka said.
“So, the long time that the ACC and the joint investigation team is taking to conclude investigations is just making those that may have done something wrong to become very bold and speak out. I have been in this business for over 20 years and the corrupt fight back. The corrupt will not take everything lying low. So in this deal of being methodical, they are providing the latitude for those that may have genuinely done something wrong in this country to become bold and call their bluff. This is where they need to calibrate their fight against corruption and rethink the strategies.”
Meanwhile, Lifuka said the UPND was ready for elections, but not extremely ready for running of government.
“A number of political parties spend time in the opposition ranks perfecting the art of campaigning to gain power. They do very little to perfect the art of running a government when they form power. This is what you see with the UPND government. I think they were ready for the election, they were not extremely ready for running of government. As the case is now, look at how long the President took to put together his Cabinet and appoint his permanent secretaries. Seven months into his tenure, the diplomats have not been appointed,” he said.
“Look at how long it is taking for statutory boards to be appointed. What they are failing to understand is that if it takes them one year to have this transition, technically they will have three years to be in government. In the fifth year, Parliament is dissolved by May so you really do not have enough time. So how long will it take you to settle and get down to the business of governing? So that is where the problem is. They need to relook at the whole fight against corruption. It should not just be about the people in the past but everyone who is found wanting. It should be about systems and institutional development.”
Lifuka said he doubted whether the people around President Hichilema shared his vision.
“What I see is that we have a mixed bag in the UPND. There are those intended to do the right thing and those focused on 2026. The people around the President need to buy his vision. The President means well but does he have the right cast able to support him? One would say there is an element of getting overwhelmed but there are others who are underwhelmed in their performance. They are not putting their weight and we need to start looking at the performance benchmarks for some of the Ministers,” said Lifuka.