It sounds malicious and disrespectful to say, but sometimes we wonder if our Republican President is in the right frame of mind when making certain pronouncements. It’s like something interesting happens to President Edgar Lungu when he is flying because we have observed that after he lands, his address to journalists is never short of controversial remarks. Usually when taking off, he appears to be calm and measured, but when he lands, his mouth becomes uncontrollable.
Let’s look back: When the President said there would be war in Zambia if the courts disqualify him from standing in 2021, it was after landing at the Airport in Solwezi. When he told Livingstone residents that he was going to declare a State of Emergency so that soldiers could beat them, it was at the Airport, When he told the clergy to stop hiding behind the Church and form a political party so that he could take them on, it was after landing at the airport. When the President vehemently defended the arrested Cabinet minister, Ronald Chitotela, and vowed not to fire or suspend him, it was after landing. The list is endless.
It appears something takes Mr Lungu when he is on the plane, or Mr Lungu takes something. Whatever it is that is taken on that presidential plane seems to have quite an influential impact on what comes out of the Head of State’s mouth when he sees journalists. How else can one explain the latest airport remarks where he launched an attack on the Financial Intelligence Centre?
“I know that what is happening at the Financial Intelligence Centre is gossip, it is not helping us, it is not helping the Republic, and it is not helping all those well-meaning people who are stakeholders. If I go and say ‘Umu mumunzi mwafa munthu; so ba mupaya ni baja, sini baziba sininga ulule. (If I just say in this village there is a murder and I know the murderer but I can’t mention the name) it is not helping us. I can’t go public and say this Politically Exposed Person did this and then I leave it to people to construct it. What we are seeing is fuelling gossip,” said President Lungu.
“So the law has to be revisited so that the FIC- if they see anything wrong, they tell the police because it just says ‘PEP’ Politically Exposed Person did this. Now we can’t afford having ‘Kachepa’ because that is a Kachepa for me. Kachepa is a gossiper. What I know is that the law says FIC will render their report to the Minister; the Minister will table it before parliament. …not Edgar Lungu is doing this and this and this… Namikanilani (I have refused)”…I refuse to be part of this! ‘Mfwiti mfwiti mfwiti’ kuti? (A witch, a witch, a witch…where?)”
To begin with, the President was lying through his teeth on a lot of things here. The Financial Intelligence Centre does not release its reports before disseminating the gathered intelligence to law enforcement agencies. The law doesn’t say the disseminations must be handed to the Minister so that they are tabled in parliament, that’s another lie. In fact, the minister is not entitled to see the full detailed financial intelligence report from FIC. It is also a lie that the Centre releases the trends report to the public without knowing who the real suspects of financial crimes are. All that was nothing but lies from the mouth of a President – not just a President, but a lawyer with many years of experience.
The Financial Intelligence Centre Board Chairman, Mr John Kasanga, has repeatedly explained how the Centre gathers information, how it’s verified and how it is shared with law enforcement agencies in accordance with the law. The same law also empowers them to share the financial trends, without naming anyone so that it doesn’t jeopardize investigations. The President knows too well about the mandate of the FIC, but he chose to lie, why?
Why would a Head of State lead a malicious propaganda onslaught on his own intelligence unit? The FIC is there to serve President Lungu and inform him about any suspicious financial transactions involving his citizens, as well as other foreign business owners in Zambia. That is the reason why before anyone else sees the report, it is taken to State House for his knowledge.
One would expect to see the President being the number one protector of the work that the FIC does for him. If the FIC team is fearless, it should make President Lungu even proud and confident that no one can get away with financial crimes under his administration. But instead, what we see is that he is the most injured by the revelations made, obscure as they are to the public. It only goes to show you that within the FIC trends report, somewhere in there lies the President’s interests being exposed. That is why he is quick to rubbish the report as Kachepa gossip.
We are actually shocked to hear the President condemn the FIC for not naming the people involved in suspicious financial transactions when he did the same thing in 2016 at State House when he announced that there was a lot of corruption among his Cabinet Ministers. He said huge chunks of monies were being deposited in ministers’ accounts without explanations. The President never told us who those ministers were, he became the Kachepa and ignited ‘baseless gossip’. Why is he condemning the FIC for giving him more concrete intelligence?
One thing that President Lungu is forgetting is that by publicly rubbishing intelligence information on financial trends, he is making the country vulnerable to bad elements. What that means is that those bad elements linked to extremism now get the idea that in Zambia, you can finance terrorist activities and their President will not believe when the transactions are exposed by the FIC. This is very dangerous, and a President who is a lawyer must know.
Like we said, there is something that happens on that presidential plane for our President to walk out hardly making any sense. We don’t know what type of water they serve him, but it seems to have a lot of ’emotions’ in it which motivate his outbursts.