Chitotela was confessing to abuse of office, authority

Ronald Chitotela, the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development looks like a very calm and decent man. In fact, he looks like a priest, and we felt sad to hear him confess on Radio Christian Voice on Tuesday that he actually declined God’s calling to the pulpit after something attracted him into politics.

But maybe it’s a good thing that Honourable Chitotela stayed away from being a preacher man because, innocent as he might look, his character doesn’t suit that of a manservant. This minister’s deeds are a true testimony that looks can be deceiving.

In July 2017, accusations of abuse of office were leveled against Honourable Chitotela, alleging that he had ordered the Road Development Agency (RDA) to buy him a vehicle. Along with this accusation came another allegation that he ordered the dismissal of two senior managers who opposed to his directive.

The minister vehemently denied ever ordering RDA to buy him a vehicle and continued to rubbish the accusations, as social media propaganda designed to malign his persona. In fact, he threatened to sue Mr Gregory Chifire who went further to publish a picture of the said vehicle, saying; “the allegation is unfounded, lacks merit or truth and is damaging to me as a person as well as a senior government official”.

But this week, when he featured on a Christian radio station, the priest in him kicked in. The Honourable minister started confessing, admitting that indeed he got, a vehicle from the Agency, claiming he used it to monitor RDA projects.

“When I was appointed we had not yet been given an official vehicle, and RDA during the monitoring of projects gave me an RDA vehicle for me to use for project monitoring. I don’t even know where it is registered. Right now after that vehicle was involved in a road accident, it has been in the garage being attended to. I am using the vehicle from the director for planning, does that make it my vehicle?” asked the minister.

“RDA is one of the statutory bodies under my ministry and nothing stops me as a minister if I don’t have transport and I am going to inspect road projects under RDA to ask for a vehicle from RDA for project monitoring. That doesn’t mean it has become my vehicle.”

This confession somewhat suggests that Honourable Chitotela doesn’t fully understand the meaning of abuse of office. It is so worrying that the minister doesn’t see anything wrong with his instruction to RDA and he is proud to go on radio to tell the nation that he has powers to demand a ministerial vehicle from RDA, National Council for Construction or National Housing Authority – just because they fall under his ministry.

It seems in his head, Honourable Chitotela thinks, if he was Minister of Higher Education, it would be acceptable for him to instruct the University of Zambia to buy him a ministerial car so that he uses it when inspecting construction projects at the campus. Is that normal?

Is Honourable Chitotela telling us that when the Minister of Information wants to travel around the country to insepct the Digital Migration project she is free to demand for a vehicle from ZNBC?

RDA has no employment contract with Honourable Chitotela, or indeed any other minister. So when he realised that he had been appointed as minister without being given a car, why didn’t he go to Cabinet Office to demand for transport?

In November 2017, Honourable Chitotela told Parliament that his ministry got an allocation of K213,976,677, part of which was used to purchase an expensive office building opposite ZICTA in Lusaka’s Long Acres area. Why didn’t his ministry buy him a vehicle from the 2017 budget? Why is he still using the vehicle for the director planning? To us, this looks like poor planning, disorganisation and irresponsibility on the part of the minister.

Honourable Chitotela needs to understand that the Road Development Agency has its own budget and they cannot justify buying a vehicle for a minister. This abuse of office will appear in the Auditor General’s report, one way or another. Chitotela’s name may not be implicated, but the misapplication of funds will reflect because RDA will fail to justify their expenditure.

We need to remind our readers that this is not the first time that Minister Chitotela is at the center of abuse of office. In December 2013, late President Michael Sata fired Chitotela in a very embarrassing fashion in front of journalists for allegedly involving himself in corrupt activities.

It was alleged that he bought a second hand ambulance from Constituency Development Funds and the Auditor General captured the irregularity, forcing the Anti Corruption Commission to drag him into a probe. President Sata said he could not work with a minister who was being investigated for corruption and abuse of office; as such, Chitotela had to go.

We remember how sad Chitotela felt after that State House press conference/Cabinet meeting, because apparently, he didn’t seem to have been in good books with his driver who, immediately after hearing the news, mockingly removed the flag from the ministerial car, while the fired minister was watching. It was almost as if the driver was expecting Honourable Chitotela to kneel down and beg for a lift.

Today, Honourable Chitotela is back in government; all powerful, with so much access to public resources, and he has forgotten his past. Why? Why is Honourable Chitotela repeating the things that got him in trouble, not so long ago? Is this what attracted him to join politics because he can easily get away with criminal allegations?

Mr Chitotela is a very lucky man that the people of Pambashe constituency voted him back as their area member of parliament. He is very lucky that President Edgar Lungu, doesn’t have Sata’s eyes and sees nothing wrong with working with corruption accused ministers. But he must not take all that for granted. When tables turn and a progressive leader takes over the reigns of power, this abuse of authority will haunt Honourable Chitotela all the way to prison.

Our advice to the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development is that he should put his house in order and learn from both his past and those who are in court for similar deeds. If he finds the temptations that come with his office too hard to resist, it is not too late for him to go back to priesthood where he will lead a peaceful and less controversial life.

         

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