On Tuesday, a story broke out that the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) had raided the residence of the Road Safety Agency (RTSA) boss, Zindaba Soko, to conduct a search. The next day, DEC Commissioner Alita Mbahwe announced that her office, through the Anti Money Laundering Investigations Unit (AMLIU), had recorded a warn and caution statement from Mr Soko.
We would like to commend Madam Mbahwe and her Drug Enforcement Commission this time, for not turning a blind eye on crimes allegedly committed by those who are still serving in government. The habit of pursuing government officials when they are fired takes away so much public confidence. People can’t be convinced that law enforcement agencies operate independently if they only follow those who are no longer in government. So for this, we would like to commend Madam Alita Mbahwe and the Drug Enforcement Commission for showing us glimpses of their teeth.
We are commending the DEC because this is uncharacteristic of them. Usually, high ranking public office bearers in the position of Mr Soko don’t get to be treated the same way that other suspects are treated. If there is an investigation around them, it happens quietly and in many cases such cases don’t get prosecuted. It then becomes difficult for the public to ask questions because the investigation was kept a secret in the first place. We remember asking the Anti Corruption Commission if it was true that they were investigating Honourable Ronald Chitotela, and they said there was no such investigation; only to be called to a press conference a week later where the same information that was being refuted was put on record. This is unfortunate.
In the case of Mr Soko, Madam Mbahwe has given the public what it demands. We know that the Commission cannot give certain details of the crime that Mr Soko has committed at this stage. But the very fact that Madam Mbahwe was able to confirm that Mr Soko is under investigation and that his house was raided, goes a long way in demonstrating some level of transparency. If the year ends without Mr Soko appearing in court, the public can go back to the Commission and ask what happened. So with all the weaknesses that one can point at on Madam Mbahwe, we feel she deserve credit and commendation for being honest and fair.
We feel sorry though for President Edgar Lungu because he has set a very bad precedence on Honourable Chitotela, by refusing to fire or suspend him after his arrest, on grounds that he is his friend. What this means is that even if Mr Soko is arrested, he is not obliged to step down and he is entitled to the same protection from the President. If he is forced to step down, we will conclude that the President is very biased in his protection for suspected criminals in government. And if he does not step down, again, it will be confirmation that this is a government of the mafias, by mafias for mafias. Soon, we will have a bunch of arrested government officials leading Zambia.
But while we are still commending the Drug Enforcement Commission for their brave move on Mr Soko, a serving government official, we are motivated to talk about their source of Intelligence for Mr Soko’s dealings.
We became inquisitive about this search, interrogation and arrest of Mr Soko because it is not usual for a serving CEO of a key government institution to be searched and arrested, unless the law enforcement wing executing the operation is convinced beyond doubt that a clear crime has been committed.
When we asked our sources at DEC about what Mr Soko is accused of, they whispered to us that the RTSA boss allegedly received suspicious money into his Stanbic account, not long before a speed cameras tender was awarded to a private company called IMS, which is believed to have deposited that money.
Because we believe our sources to be absolutely credible, we did not stop at publishing this information; considering that our informers mentioned bank transactions in the alleged crime, we decided to check if this case of Mr Soko could be one of the cases reported in the 2018 Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends report.
We might be wrong, but after analyzing X and Y, we figured that Z could be Mr Zindaba Soko! The FIC Trends Report gave out four random case studies in their public report; two to do with public officers allegedly receiving bribes from construction companies, one to do with terrorist financing and the other one talking about a private company that was awarded a public service tender.
Of course the report doesn’t name Mr Soko, not even his initials, but considering what our DEC sources told us about the speed cameras tender, which Mr Soko has been linked to, we have every reason to believe that this is the public service tender mentioned in case study number 2 in the Trends report, involving a foreign company.
If we are right, it means this is a clear demonstration of how important the work that the Financial Intelligence Center does for the law enforcement wings and the Zambian public. This is also a demonstration of how the DEC needs the FIC and the other way round.
Having said that, we are not in any way suggesting that Mr Soko is guilty of the crime he is accused of committing, he is very innocent until the courts of law say otherwise.
The only questions we are asking are; did Soko pull this alone? Where is the controlling officer at the ministry? And more importantly, where are the charges on the person suspected to have bribed Mr Soko? Because every bribee must have a briber!