When ZNBC’s Sunday Interview programme host Grevazio Zulu asked Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) acting Director General Rosemary Nkonde Khuzwayo to give an update on the 48 seized houses linked to a Ministry of Finance official, the ACC boss said the case has been closed because the Commission failed to find the real owner of the properties believed to be proceeds of crime.
Firstly, we must commend Grevazio for putting up this television programme, which remains one of very few shows on ZNBC that people still watch. He handles the Sunday Interview in a captivating manner and asks the right questions without fear of the fact that he actually works for a government-owned media institution. The last guest who featured on this programme from the ACC left us scratching our heads.
We are not sure whether this was a lack of capacity by the ACC boss to elaborate issues, or there was not enough time to give sufficient details of this huge corruption scandal. Perhaps her hands were tied and she was afraid of opening a can of worms, which would implicate big names in government, we don’t know. What is clear is that Zulu asked very intelligent questions, as usual, but madam Khuzwayo hid behind the provisions of the law to deny the public some answers.
Nkonde KHUZWAYO: “When we became aware of that gentleman, the one we thought was the owner of the flats, investigations were directed at him. But in the course of the investigations, it was clear that those flats were not in his name. The person in whose names those properties were in, when interviewed, he disowned the properties, he said they were not his. For me who is a lawyer and a prosecutor, I am asking myself, if we took him to court, there is nothing in his name and he refuses ownership, so how would we prove that those things were ever his? And the person in whose names those flats were denied ever knowing about them. What he explained was that someone asked for his NRC copy; he gave them and the next thing he knows is that ACC is on his case because some properties in Lusaka are in his name.”
Listening to his TV guest, Zulu was intrigued by the answers, just like the rest of us were, and he expressed fear that the closure of this case would inspire other Zambians to steal with impunity and later on just disown the property on claims that someone just used their NRC without their knowledge. But Khuzwayo maintained that the matter would not go well in court because of lack of evidence.
Lack of evidence? Really? Did the 48 houses drop from heaven like manna? Who built them? Who imported the Chinese material used in the construction of these houses? What about the Ministry of Lands records? Who owns this land? This is serious real estate investment so someone must have gotten title deeds for it and also cleared his building plans with the Council. Is ACC telling us that all those questions were pursued and they still failed to link the properties to anyone?
We note that madam Khuzwayo disclosed that the ACC has directed the tenants in the seized houses to stop paying rentals to “whoever they were paying”, and start paying rentals to the Commission. Uuumm? Who signed the tenancy agreement on behalf of the landlord? Are you saying even the person who was collecting rentals from the properties was questioned and he also distanced himself from his own bank account? What about Zesco? Because if there are tenants in the houses, it means they are connected to the national grid. Whose name is on the bill? Zesco also doesn’t know? It doesn’t make sense!
Dear readers, the ACC is fooling citizens, and we are trying hard to express our opinion without offending anyone at the Commission because we understand the difficult circumstances under which they operate. But even a fool can tell that the ACC is fully aware of the owner of these houses but they deliberately decided to close the case because it involves big people.
It is really offensive to taxpayers when their money is being stolen and those tasked with the duty of arresting criminals are taking such a casual approach towards law enforcement. We understand that the law permits the ACC to take this approach, but we are angered by their clear lack of interest to use the skills at their disposal to catch the criminals.
We do not believe that the ACC can simply invite the owners of the stolen property to surrender themselves to a court process, and if they don’t show up, the case is closed! We really believe that it is incumbent upon the ACC to pursue suspects; this is what they would have done if the real owners of these houses were not holding powerful positions in government.
Is this what ACC means when they say cases referred to them by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) don’t end up in court because of lack of evidence? Is this what the President means when he says people are just shouting mfwiti mfwiti without evidence of corruption? Kwena, pompwes will get very fat in this government if this is the level of structured protection!