One of the reasons why Presidents have so much power, ‘unlimited’ privileges and immunity, is because they are expected to have good judgment. Those who draft constitutions and those who enact laws expect that the powers they bestow on a sitting Head of State would be used to the benefit of all citizens.
For example, when the Constitution says all power over land is vested in the hands of the Republican President, it does not mean that the incumbent President owns every plot, farm and bush territory in the country. It simply means that the President is expected to protect all land from abuse, for the benefit of his people. In essence, the President is merely a signatory to its administration, but all land actually belongs to the people. Therefore, it would be immoral for a sitting Head of State to wake up one morning and decide which piece of land to give away and which one to repossesses.
In the same vain, Presidents superintend over the wealth of a country with a huge expectation from citizens that they would commandeer the use of public resources with a great sense of responsibility. A President needs to ensure that all expenditure is of benefit to the people. The fact that a sitting President can order his Cabinet to spend money on a particular project, does not mean that the money belongs to him. He can hold the keys to the treasury, through his Minister of Finance, but the funds belong to the people he governs, including borrowed money. Therefore a President cannot wake up and decide which expenditure should be accounted for and which one should be ignored; that must be left to the people who entrusted him with the key to the country’s public resources.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in our country. In Zambia, our President decides how public money should be spent and dictates how much of it should be accounted for. That is why President Edgar Lungu is at pains to see so many Zambians demanding accountability and transparency in the fire tender scandal, the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and the RTSA/Lamise contract. Our President is frustrated because he doesn’t want these government deals to be accounted for, since they directly or indirectly, involve people he knows.
“In the last one month there has been this hype about corruption. Especially in the aftermath of the much talked about fire tenders. My ministers and permanent secretaries are now scared of making decisions for fear of being accused of corruption. I cannot take it anymore”, President Lungu said.
We found it utterly strange that this statement was coming from our Head of State, but what made it worse was his complaint that the Anti Corruption Commission was delaying to deal with one individual who was linked to corruption.
“I received a report of wrong doing on the part of one minister and I told ACC ‘you can go ahead and deal with this matter’. Up to now they have not dealt with the matter and I want to find out why,” said President Lungu.
In other words, our Head of State wants the ACC to deal with an individual like Chishimba Kambwili who was accused of corruption but not the other names which the Zambians want probed. He wants Kambwili to be investigated expeditiously, but Stephen Kampyongo must not be touched despite being linked to corruption in the fire tender acquisition. Why? This is a careless way of looking after a country’s wealth. All the money that is used on government contracts belongs to the People of Zambia; it does not belong to President Lungu or his family and friends. Therefore if Zambians say, ‘we want this contract to be probed or cancelled’, giving all the reasons to support their demands, a responsible Head of State must listen. But our President is stubborn. Instead of supporting accountability, he is complaining that his ministers are failing to make decisions because of the numerous corruption allegations. How can they fail to make decisions if those decisions would benefit the citizens? Why are they paralised if they are innocent?
In fact, it is very strange that our President says he cannot take the accusations any more, when he is the one who started the corruption allegation against his own ministers on October 31, 2016.
“I have seen an increase in corruption among Cabinet Ministers, yet our people are suffering. There are constant deposits in people’s bank accounts of huge sums of money on a daily basis. I would urge you (the new Ministers) to desist, to resist the temptation, not to go that way. Very soon I will be firing some Ministers…”
This is what President Lungu said last year, so why is he complaining now that Zambians have joined him in demanding for the removal of corrupt ministers? If Kambwili was corrupt, it is good that he was fired. But there is no good or bad corruption. There is no such thing as sacred corruption for a good cause; it is all theft. Therefore if Kampyongo is corrupt, he must also go, regardless of how useful he is to the ruling party.
President Lungu must not stop the Zambian people from crying, because it is their money. He must let them question every decision made by a Minister, Permanent Secretary or indeed himself. It is him who announced to the people of Zambia that his ministers were corrupt; that they were banking huge volumes of money and acquiring unexplained wealth. So how can he go back to the citizens and say, “your accusations are paralysing my government?”
You work with the ministers, you live next to them and you have access to their bank accounts. So if you say they are thieves, we believe you and warn everyone else. When you tell your neighbours that my children are prostitutes, you cannot go back to condemn them when they start spreading the news that bana baba Lungu nima hule.