When President Edgar Lungu gave instructions to the rest of the law enforcement wings to join in the investigations of the 48 houses until the owner is found and taken to court, we knew that someone was going to get embarrassed along the way, but that someone would not be the mysterious owner of the said properties.
We knew that if the Drug Enforcement Commission reopened criminal investigation into a case that the Anti Corruption Commission had already closed, and went ahead to drag the owner to court, it would imply that the ACC is seriously incompetent. If this had happened, the Anti Corruption Commission would have remained very embarrassed.
On the other hand, if the two law enforcement wings failed to find and prosecute the owner of the 48 houses, this would embarrass the Head of State. Either way, someone was bound to be embarrassed; if not President Lungu, then the two Commissions would have taken the shame.
So what has happened? They have decided to strike a balance so that no one suffers the humiliation. That is why the Anti Corruption Commission issued a statement as inexplicable as the mysterious 48 houses.
ACC Statement: “Further to the media reports and the concerns raised by the members of the general public, the Commission wishes to state that the 48 flats were forfeited to the State after due process of the law pursuant to Statutory Instrument No. 58 of 2004. In as far as the forfeiture process is concerned, the matter is closed. The criminal investigations, however, are active and still ongoing and the Commission is happy to collaborate with other investigative wings in this matter.”
We mean no malice judge Anderson Zikonda, but how are you investigating a case that is closed? Your acting Director General, Rosemary Nkonde Nkuzwayo, told the whole country on the State broadcaster that you, as Anti Corruption Commission, had failed to find the owner of the 48 houses, and hence the case had been closed after the property was seized. She categorically said there was no evidence linking any human being to the actual ownership of those houses, and as such, the matter could not stand in court. So then, what are you investigating?
In our view, this is a scheme to let the matter die an investigative death like all the other cases under ‘investigation’ have died. They have now opened a rhetoric investigation just like the Vespers Shimuzhila case and the brutal murder of Mapenzi Chibulo by State police.
In an attempt to mask their shame and to save the President’s face at the same time, the ACC decided to issue this weird statement, which announces that the case is closed, as Nkuzwayo had stated, but investigations are ongoing, as directed by President Lungu.
The people of Zambian must be very foolish to buy this nonsense! Like they say, you can fool some people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. We may have a docile society that can’t react when its leaders are taking citizens for a ride, but that does not mean that they can’t see criminal intentions among those who hold power.
We have refused to believe that the Anti Corruption Commission has no capacity to find the real owners of those houses. They have all the information on their table, but there is a piece of the puzzle that complicates things for them. That is the piece that they are afraid drag into the picture.
Former Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba is saying the Anti Corruption Commission has put itself in a very awkward situation because of the manner in which it has handled this mysterious 48 houses case. According to Kabimba, the failure by the Anti Corruption Commission to establish a crime from clearly set out evidence sets a very bad precedent because people will now simply deny ownership of stolen property when caught.
We are glad that Mr Kabimba has decided to commence judicial review proceedings into this case, because what he is saying makes a lot of sense. The complaint from the public is not that the Anti Corruption Commission seized the properties illegally or that their actions were not backed by the law. What people are complaining about is the failure to establish a crime from these mysteriously abandoned houses and to find the person who committed the crime.
The ACC must not hide behind a finger. Let them take this matter to court immediately because they already know the owner of those 48 houses. If this case is allowed to die without being tried, then we will conclude that President Lungu is either linked to it or is so toothless that his directive can be thrown into the rubbish bin while he watches