Jealous down, President Edgar Lungu has shown some intolerance against abuse of public resources in this donor aid scandal. Finally, we are proud that he has stroked his long stick in the right direction. This is what we expected from him when he first announced that he would fall like a tonne of brick on offenders.
In our view, the question of whether it is right for him to fire or suspend government workers who are suspected to have been linked to the theft and misappropriation of donor aid without first letting them undergo an investigation process, is very simple. Our position is that there is nothing wrong with asking a public office holder to step aside while a probe is being done. As long as there is no prejudice on the suspects and when they are found innocent, they are called back without making them suffer any discrimination, then it is right.
Responsible governance entails that those at the top must perform the oversight role of ensuring that those operating below them adhere to the principles of public accountability. Failure of that interprets poor leadership skills on those in charge of a nation, and the consequences are a vote of no confidence.
It seems our Head of State has finally decided that he will not keep quiet while theft of public resources are being reported in the face of an outraged public. It appears the President is sending us a signal to say that he has been silent for too long, and it is now time to act. We wish the President well on this experiment, as he is obviously trying to see how much public and donor confidence he can retain.
But this oversight role that President Lungu seems to have embarked on is not supposed to be selective. It must be holistic and across the board. That way, people will believe that he has genuine intentions of cleaning up the system. We agree with him that the system is rotten, and civil servants as well as political appointees, have been invading national coffers, looting at will knowing nothing would happen to them.
In just less than a month, President Lungu has fired a Cabinet Minister, suspended a Permanent Secretary and a head of a parastatal institution. This is a serious amount of venom to spit out over just one scandal. The question is; what about the others who are connected to theft and corruption in this same government? Why have they remained untouched? Is it only donor money, which is painful to lose? Is it because the British have demanded a refund of their money while the Zambian people never ask for a refund of their stolen taxpayers’ money?
Surely, there has been plenty of scandals exposed in the Auditor General’s public expenditure reports as well as in the Financial Intelligence Centre Trends Report. If our President can wipe his glasses and look again, he will see that he is actually searching too far. Corruption is germinating right there in his office. If he checks his drawers, he will see it and he knows who took it there.
Like we have explained, these suspensions of public officers based on theft allegations, are in order. But they can only be justified if everyone in government is receiving equal treatment. In our view, the closer you are to the President, the sooner you must leave if linked to corruption. At least that is the normal way of looking at things. But it seems in our current set up, the President is immune and free to benefit from corruption, and that immunity has been abused and stretched to cover everyone else around him.
How many scandals have we seen involving those that surround President Lungu? They have been linked to fraud in financial reports, they can’t explain their sources of income, but they have become stinky rich within a short period of time with properties everywhere you turn. How can it be that the President doesn’t see or read any of it? People are very observant and they know when they are being fooled.
We have heard from those that have grown up, lived and worked with President Lungu. We are told that he is a good man who is being damaged by the people around him, both at State House and in the party hierarchy. They are telling us that the Presidency has been hijacked by President Lungu’s sponsors.
It is easy for us to believe this because we heard it from his mouth in 2015 that he had no presidential ambitions in his life. We can’t, therefore, doubt that he has surrendered the Presidency to those who have a desperate ambition to control the country’s resources, but have no means of democratically ascending to the position.
Our concern is that if President Lungu chooses to be longsighted by failing to see the criminality going on within his circles, and only flex his muscles on those who are at a distance, it will destroy him. These people are not elected individuals, so they will use his name in every fraudulent transaction, and it will be the President to pay when the time comes to face the voters again.
Should President Lungu fail to win the 2021 elections, since he has already declared himself a candidate, we will be covering his news from the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court. The people he is protecting will be turned against State witnesses.