The arrest of Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela and the subsequent refusal by President Edgar Lungu to suspend the Cabinet minister has, in many ways, exonerated the Anti Corruption Commission – not completely though, but well enough.
Anyone, including ourselves, who have been bitter with the reluctant and cowardly manner in which the Anti Corruption Commission has been approaching high profile cases of corruption, can now see what the institution goes through. Yes, we must be angry at the fact that corruption is been fertilized instead of being weeded out, but we must direct our anger to the deserving villain.
The Anti Corruption Commission arrested this minister, who is also Pambashe member of parliament, and charged him with two counts of concealing property believed to be proceeds of crime. According to the Anti Corruption Act, such a public officer must be suspended in order for fair justice to be achieved. But President Lungu is, using sugar coated words, telling the investigative wing to go to hell and leave his ‘innocent’ minister alone.
“They have to prove before the courts of law and I hope they give him a chance to prove himself. I will even fund them to do their operations but those who are calling for the removal of honorable Chitotela now, I say no, give me space to breathe and bring your evidence,” President Lungu said.
“So, let us not politicize the fight against corruption. There is a perception that by doing that they are weakening Lungu, they are not weakening me, they are just killing the systems we have set up to fight corruption genuinely.”
We wonder how Honourable Chitotela is feeling right now. He must be wiling to lick President Lungu’s feet, or even drink his bathwater. When a Head of State has your back in that blatant manner, surely you can be assured to be the most untouchable man in government.
Meanwhile, we don’t even understand why the President would like to, all of a sudden, fund the Anti Corruption Commission officers from his pocket to ‘investigate’ this arrested minister. Firstly, when the ACC makes an arrest, it means they have already concluded their investigations and they are sure, beyond doubt, that a crime was committed. And secondly, one would think the ACC already has funding from the Treasury for such operations. Or maybe the Great Leader of this Great Country was referring to a special kind of ‘chitotela’ funding for the officers to shut up. Who knows?
Anyway, whatever the case, this development has exposed the Republican President and restored some level of dignity to the Anti Corruption Commission. We are just concerned that while protecting one minister, President Lungu has put the lives of ACC investigators in great danger.
Those officers who arrested the minister must be feeling dead scared, and they have a reason to be afraid because, indeed, anytime soon after the shame dies down, the wounded minister will go for them. We believe that after being cleared by the same Head of State to go ahead and arrest the minister, the ACC officers thought they were well protected by the State. But now they have realised that they are on their own. It was just a trap and they fell into it. One way or another, they will definitely be made to pay individually, for humiliating, not only a Cabinet minister, but a friend of the President.
Those with experience at the Anti Corruption Commission know very well not to show their teeth in such cases because you can easily be bruised. It is no wonder a very junior public relations officer announced the arrest of the minister when the institution has two senior PR managers. They may have had genuine excuses for not being available to announce this grand arrest to the cameras, but we are speculating from experience because we know what one of these senior PR managers was subjected to when they merely discussed a corruption matter involving a State House official.
We find it very unfair that apart from making the work of these ACC investigators impossible to do, they have to be subjected to this kind of risk. People may think this is just a small matter, but it is not. When corruption has been institutionalized, like the case is in Zambia, there is so much at stake. There is a corruption syndicate in this government which links everyone up the ladder to the President himself. So anyone who dares to shake it down, gets in direct firing range with the beneficiaries.
In our view, what President Lungu has done in this case is a direct assault on the investigative wing. By accusing the officers there of trying to undermine his government through corruption reports involving his ministers, the President has declared the ACC an enemy of the State.
We are not surprised that Mr Kennedy Kamba, who by the way is President Lungu’s preferred candidate for the position of Lusaka Province PF chairman, can now accuse the ACC of conniving with the opposition to scandalize the Head of State’s most influential ministers. This is not Kennedy Kamba’s own opinion, it is a common belief around those who surround the President.
We would like to prod Zambians to sympathise with the Anti Corruption Commission investigators and its leadership. If there is any proof that was needed that they are operating under impossible circumstances, it cannot be better than this scandal involving Mr Chitotela and his President. They have redeemed the ACC and exposed the corruption syndicate to which they belong. Shame!