President Edgar Lungu has instructed Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo to ensure that investigative wings reopen the case involving 48 houses that were seized by the Anti-Corruption Commission and forfeited to the State without taking the matter to court. This is good news and we commend the Head of State for stepping in and responding to the public outcry.

According to Honourable Kampyongo, the President doesn’t believe that this matter was brought to a conclusive end and agrees with the concerned public that property ownership is supposed to have paper trail because houses cannot build themselves. He added that the President wants the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Police to work with the Anti Corruption Commission in finding the owners of the flats so that they can stand trial in court.

Stephen KAMPYONGO: “His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has issued some instructions to me as Minister of Home Affairs regarding the matter which is under public debate. The instructions from his Excellency are that, much as the ACC doesn’t fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs, he has instructed us to ensure that the agencies that fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs get to collaborate with the Anti-Corruption Commission to ensure that the matter which is under public debate regarding the 48 houses is probed further and the desire is to see that matter be resolved in the courts of law. Those are the instructions his Excellency has given this morning.”

“Obviously, owning a property has got a trail. The houses can’t just build themselves. We have heard sentiments like the person who was arrested pointed to another person and this person is saying ‘the documents were fraudulently gotten’. So there are elements that other institutions like DEC can further interrogate and see how they can consolidate what the ACC could have done in that matter. It’s also worth noting that there could be individuals behind those houses and these are the individuals that the public is interested to know. So it will just be ideal that if these people are innocent, they go and clear themselves in the courts of law. The President’s instructions are that we go beyond just forfeiting and seizing the property.

First, we must say that the Anti Corruption Commission has found itself in a very embarrassing situation over this criminal investigation, and they deserve it. Even the learned lawyer in State House who appoints ACC bosses can’t comprehend how an investigative wing of that magnitude can fail to solve such an easy puzzle. Like we said in our initial opinion on this issue, the ACC boss must have either been protecting someone, did not have enough time to express herself fully on that ZNBC interview, or she is simply not competent to answer questions.

Now, we appreciate the directive from the President that this case must be reopened. But we do not see how the DEC will do what the ACC failed. These institutions have the same capacity and the same limitations. They have both demonstrated to the public that they are not independent and they operate on instructions from politicians. This is exactly what has happened in this case. They were told to stop the investigation by someone linked to the case and they stopped, now the President has said resume and they have reopened the case. What more can the public expect from them?

If there are certain areas where the Anti-Corruption Commission could not reach in this investigation of 48 houses without help from the Drug Enforcement Commission, what stopped them from collaborating? Is this not the reason why they are called joint investigative wings? Why did they have to wait for the President to tell them what to do?

We know what is going on here. The President and his government are extremely embarrassed by how the public has reacted to this 48 houses scandal. They are shocked to see the backlash that has come with the premature closure of a criminal case. Little did they know that corruption has been hurting Zambians and slowly they have been uniting with one voice to condemn it.

All these years, President Lungu and his ministers have been demanding for evidence from those who accuse them of corruption. Just last week, the Head of State was instructing ACC to arrest those who complain about corruption in government without any evidence. Now we have the evidence in the 48 houses, and suddenly there is no thief. This is insane. If a Chainama patient told this story to his caregivers on his last day in hospital, they wouldn’t discharge him. It’s a crazy story for a normal person to believe.

Our advice to the President is that if the DEC and ACC have both failed to find the owners of these properties, let him unleash the Financial Intelligence Centre to follow the paper trail so that they can bring their findings to the public. We speak for many citizens when we say the public has a lot of confidence in the Financial Intelligence Centre and we believe that they cannot fail to solve this little puzzle.

Mary Chirwa, give us iwee!