Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo says he will pay the fine slapped on former Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya, who was found guilty by FIFA of accepting a bribe. This, he says, he will do because he is a devoted soccer fan and he wants the celebrated football legend to get over the trouble and focus on the game.
To be clear to those who have not followed this matter, Mr Kalusha was found guilty of receiving about US $80,000 bribe from an Asian businessman who wanted to be voted FIFA president. As punishment, the Zambian soccer icon was ordered to pay about US $100, 000 and was further handed a restraining order from all football activities. Upon hearing his appeal, FIFA has upheld the conviction, but reduced the ban from about two years to nine months, and also reduced the fine to about US$10,000.
This is what has excited Honourable Lusambo to the extent that he is willing to part away with K120 million (old currency) just to demonstrate his happiness – even when he knows that Great Kalu is expected to have, several times, more money than him.
“To demonstrate my happiness, I pledge to pay the 10,000 Swiss Franc (K120,000) fine that the FIFA Appeals Committee has imposed on Kalusha. The gesture does not in any way seek to cast aspersions on Kalusha’s ability to pay the fine, but it is a small attempt at thanking Kalusha for the many years of great service to Zambia,” said Mr Lusambo, the millionaire philanthropist.
“I should state clearly here that the funds to honour my pledge to pay the fine on behalf of Kalusha will be fully funded from my personal resources and will be made in my capacity as a football fan.”
To start with, where is the money coming from? Mr Lusambo was not a successful businessman before he was appointed a provincial minister. In fact, we recall that shortly after taking office, he attempted to portray himself as a charitable saint by announcing a media scholarship fund from his own pockets. A group of Copperbelt journalists were duped into believing him, and they enrolled in one of the big universities, only to be abandoned after being sponsored for one semester.
People should not be fooled! This minister’s pocket does not have this kind of money that he is flaunting to the public. So, where is it coming from? It’s from corruption. Without the ministerial office, Mr Lusambo has nothing more than a humble livelihood. This man is simply trying to gain all the political mileage from any given situation, and in so doing; he is going too far in abusing his office for personal interests.
We have nothing against Great Kalu or those who are sympathizing with him. We can’t take away anything from the accolades that this son of the soil has brought to the country. All we have is respect plus admiration for him, and that’s why we are able to refer to him as “Great Kalu”. A statue of him, together with those who perished in the Gabon air disaster, would not be a bad idea around one of the stadiums – as a way of appreciating their sacrifice to Zambia.
We can add that, if football stakeholders want Mr Kalusha to return as president of the Football Association of Zambia, let them do so, knowing very well the character of the man they will be voting back in power. Whatever the case, his corruption cannot be cleansed by his successor’s poor performance at the helm of the soccer governing body.
Corruption has got nothing to do with how great Mr Kalusha is. In fact, the greater you are, the further you should be from the vice. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in politics or in sports; corruption must be exposed, condemned and fought.
Our concern is that the minister is very eager to bail out a corruption convict, without any counsel to Mr Kalusha over the bribe that got him in the troubled position. Is it because he thinks the man is innocent? No, it’s because he thinks corruption can be silenced with money. He lives in a world where someone can pay their way out of corruption scandals. Mr Lusambo and Mr Kalusha do not detest corruption, they are beneficiaries.
That is the corruption link that exists between the minister and the soccer legend. It is for that reason that, instead of directing that token of appreciation towards globally-renowned referee Janny Sikazwe, who has been acquitted of any corrupt practices, Mr Lusambo has chosen to pay a fine on behalf of a rich Pamodzi Hotel resident, whose conviction has been upheld by the FIFA Appeals Committee.
Ironically, this is the same minister who lambasted and humiliated police officers whom he found receiving tuma K20 bribes from motorists in Matero. He said the government of the “great leader of this great country” does not tolerate any form of corruption. Today, he is financing corruption and defending a corruption deal that involves close to a million kwacha. Zambians must also remember that this is the same minister who accidentally recorded himself discussing corruption with some Chinese contractors in his office.
In the face of all this hypocrisy, some Zambians are still clapping for the minister, branding him an anti-corruption hero. This ties in perfectly with the editorial comment we published on Wednesday, to the effect that those charged with the responsibility of fighting corruption are pursuing petty thieves, while abetting grand corruption.
Great Kalu is a Zambian, living in the same city that houses the Anti-Corruption Commission. It’s four years since the football legend was accused of committing the crime, but our Anti-Corruption Commission is still silent, despite gathering the facts in the matter. Is it because they have not found anything on him? No, even a fool can tell that there was no way the ACC was going to prosecute a public figure who has been vigorously campaigning for the Republican President. If they tried, they were going to get a call from State House.
Then you hear the Anti-Corruption Commission boss saying: “we don’t understand why Zambians have stopped reporting corruption cases to us.” They can’t investigate Lusambo, they can’t prosecute Kalusha, which corruption do they want people to report? This is an insult to the intelligence of citizens. Sometimes the heads of these institutions must learn to just eat with those in power and shut up, the “bla bla bla” is annoying!