Tying govt programmes to office holder is wrong

Former justice minister Wynter Kabimba may no longer possess the political esteem that he once enjoyed at the time when he won the 2011 general elections for the Patriotic Front as Secretary General. Actually, the comrade’s political alignment seems blurry lately, but we still regard him as one of the most astute thinkers Zambia has ever been blessed with.

Something caught our attention over what comrade Kabimba said regarding the escalating cases of theft of exhibits in our courts of law. He observed that the missing of court files and exhibits are only symptoms of a much deeper problem in the Judiciary, which will not stop unless the root cause of corruption is established and dealt with.

“The need to motivate workers in the Judiciary, in the Police, in the Prisons Service is paramount. This is critically important in all these institutions in order to address corruption. Once you have exhibits missing from the Judiciary, it tells stories about the state where we are. How do you fix that problem? You don’t fix it only by making arrests, you fix the problem by looking at the causes, not the symptoms of that problem. And the consequence of that, people will lose confidence in the Judiciary, they will lose confidence in the police, they will lose confidence in the National Prosecutions Authority and we will become an empty society,” Kabimba warned.

Well said, but that is not what caught our attention. His concern about Zambia’s failure to institute judicial reforms is what got us thinking. Particularly, we were able to relate to his displeasure of the trend in Zambia where government programmes are abandoned every time there is a change of public office bearers.

“There was a judicial and legal reforms commission, which was set up during the time I was Minister of Justice by the President, headed by former Supreme Court judge Honorable Mr Justice Fredrick Chomba. The idea of that commission of inquiry was to recommend reforms in the Judiciary, the prisons service and the police because these three institutions work in tandem. We saw all these problems and we set up a commission of inquiry where people could come and reveal that, ‘this is what is going on’,” Kabimba remembered.

“I am saddened to note that since I was dismissed from government, since the demise of Michael Sata on the 28th of October 2014, I have hardly heard about that commission of inquiry. The problem in our country is that government programmes are attached to an individual that initiated them without looking at the underlying principle or benefit that such a programme would bring about.”

Comrade Kabimba was spot on! Even us who are outside government can vividly see that there is a trend of abandoned programmes when an individual who initiated them is moved, or worse, fired. For example, a change of Minister of Finance went with the IMF bailout programme. We won’t hear much of it now because that was Felix Mutati’s pregnancy; his successor has aborted it and turned to China to conceive her own. Another example is when there was a change of minister at Agriculture. We saw government abandoning the traditional implementation of the Fertilizer Input Support Programmes. But already, Dora Siliya’s methods have gone with her transfer, leaving her successor giving the e-Voucher a red card. This is the trend in all the ministries where there is a change of office bearers.

It is this mess that Comrade Kabimba was talking about. The reason these programmes are abandoned is not that they are bad, but because the pioneer is either not in good standing with the system or mere jealousy by the successor. Governance is not supposed to be like that. What is good is good, and must be implemented and cherished for the sake of the country, regardless of who initiated it.

The former justice minister is right. Zambia desperately needed judicial reforms, and had that Justice Chomba-led Commission of Inquiry been allowed to operate, we were not going to be seeing such an escalation of thefts and corruption within the arm of government that is charged with the responsibility of dispensing justice.

How did we get to a point where the State’s position on high profile cases changes depending on the person holding the office of Director of Public Prosecutions. Only in Zambia can we have a DPP U-turning on a conviction achieved by the previous office bearer. How can a DPP win a case in the High Court, and a new DPP goes to the Supreme Court to say, “I don’t support that conviction?” Where on earth?

Fellow Zambians, our Judiciary has been reduced to a casino today, where nothing else matters more than money. The more you have, the more you win. It is money that caused the cocaine exhibit to grow legs and disappear. But again, we must not be surprised that this trend doesn’t seem to worry the people who are supposed to revive the Justice Chomba Commission of Inquiry, because the Executive itself is another big casino being run by individuals with impeccable gambling skills.

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