“People’s love for money has reached alarming levels, while the love for man has lost its course… Why do we want to steal all this money and stash it away knowing that probably we would not live long enough to use it all?” Principal Resident Magistrate Exornobert Zulu said last Thursday as he meted out an 18-year jail sentence for former Ministry of Health human resource manager Henry Kapoko and four others.
This was one of the most touching judgments coming out of the subordinate courts, after the protracted trial of organized plunderers of public resources who were caught nine years ago. We recall that at the time the accused were arrested, this was a huge public scandal that attracted the international press, as it led to the termination of donor aid to the Ministry of Health. Along the way though, the matter lost hype and citizens almost forgot the anguish that this theft had caused.
However, Magistrate Zulu did his best to take us back to 2009; reliving the suffering of poor patients, some of whom died because the money that was meant to provide them health care was taken by a few greedy civil servants.
“I do not think a statutory judgment would wipe out the anguish felt by the young medical doctor at Zimba Mission Hospital whose grant was drastically reduced to K3 million per month; only for those who after traveling for long hours, taking their sick children to the hospital to access medical treatment, to be greeted by the reality that they cannot receive the health facilities because there was no medicine,” Magistrate Zulu lamented.
“To think that there are a few mothers out there who still shade tears at the thought that, had this theft not occurred, government would not have lost the good will, the donors could have not pulled out and their loved ones could not have died. The love for money has reached alarming levels while the love for man has lost its course.”
Magistrate Zulu could not understand why someone would steal such amounts of money, when they would not live long enough to use it.
“Mr Kapoko, because of his desire for affluence, stole our [funds] with little or no regard for our brothers, sisters, children and parents lying helplessly in the hospital. I think our obsession with money is worrying. Why do we want to steal all this money and stash it away knowing that probably we would not live long enough to use it all? Please let us be honest and modest [in our lifestyles],” said Magistrate Zulu.
“It is also disheartening to note the things that we aspire for; why would one steal money to go and buy an extra car or another person’s human hair? Is it really worth it? I know we all love our children but let’s do it honestly. Let us not deny others a fighting chance especially when one is lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life.”
Once again, this was a very moving judgment, full of wisdom from the learned Honourable Magistrate. As we heard these words, we could not help but connect this case to the ongoing looting of public resources in our current government.
On the other hand, ironically, we could not help but laugh at the ‘change’ that Kapoko and his allies stole from the government, the consequences of which will continue to torment them for another two decades. K6.8 million was involved; a lodge here, a couple of houses there, etc.
Dear readers, in today’s Patriotic Front, can theft of US$600, 000 from our government surprise you? No! That is just ‘little’ change that one officer at State House collects in order to fix an appointment between the President and a businessman. Today, plunderers are not stealing money to buy a house; they have bought construction companies that build houses for government. They own hotels, hospitals, schools and manufacturing companies that supply services to the government.
Even if we brought in what we thought was a record breaking theft of Frederick Chiluba. What he stole in 10 years, is today just a kick back from one Chinese contractor to one government official. Today we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars being stolen from the State coffers, with no arrests being made.
There is no better yardstick for measuring how our country has advanced in the plunder of national resources than this case of Henry Kapoko. That is why, when Magistrate Zulu was speaking, we could not help but direct his questions to those who are running our State House, ministries and State-owned enterprises.
Why do you need nine extra luxurious cars to yourself when your fellow Zambians cannot afford a bottle of cooking oil? Why are you stealing money and stashing it away, knowing that you won’t live long enough to use it all?
You may think you are stealing for your children, but when this day comes, you will realize that you were actually stealing from them. The level of theft in the current government, actually compels us to pray that we should not die until the time comes for this regime to account. It will be a season of breaking news.