Siame’s dismissal a small victory for voices of reason

In a dramatic turn of events, President Edgar Lungu has fired his Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) Board chairperson Mr George Siame, barely 24 hours after appointing him. Before the man could even finish printing his business cards, he was gone! Not just dropped as chairman so that he could remain on the FIC board, but fired! Completely.

Now, those who understand how the system works know that the President plays no role in vetting individuals that he wishes to appoint or those that are recommended to him. That is the responsibility of the Office of the President Special Division. The shushushus! The question therefore is: could it be possible that the OP did not do their job? We doubt.

We have been privileged to see evidence in the past where the Intelligence wing advises government against awarding a contract or entering into a partnership with a bogus organisation, but those pushing for the deal ignore the findings of the vetting process.

Those who have had a chance to work with Mr Siame say he is a man of questionable character. He was convicted for assaulting a female workmate while at the Zambia Revenue Authority, among other scandals linked to him. Is it possible that the President could not have known about this background? We don’t think so.

What has happened to Mr Siame is a reflection of many other issues. The revocation of his appointment communicates so many things than our ears can hear at the moment. A person like President Lungu should pay particular attention to complaints of the people. Being President, he can appoint anyone he likes and force that individual on the citizens, but he must be careful and take governance issues seriously.

Those around the President will always lie to him and give him accolades for every decision he makes. They will even give him fancy names like political engineer, like they did to Frederick Chiluba. That is what Chiluba was told by those close to him. Chiluba never listened to the people. He thought politics was about dribbling opponents. That is what we see in President Lungu as well.

He doesn’t seem to be paying attention to important things. Corruption and bad governance are not new problems in Zambia. These are problems we have had to deal with for many years. The difference now is that corruption and bad governance seem to have been embraced as official government policy.

When people complain about corruption and good governance, they are told to bring evidence. This is what happened in Chiluba’s time as well. Evidence was all over and everyone could see, but those in power said “bring evidence”. This is not very difference from what we are seeing today. The difference now is that the President is instructing law enforcement agencies to arrest those who are exposing corruption.

It is clear that the appointments at the Financial Intelligence Center are not meant to strengthen that institution. They are meant to weaken it. Those who have been appointed to the board of FIC know very well what happened to the previous board. It is clear that if they do not toll the government line and try to be independent, they will be thrown out.

The appointment of Mr Siame to chair that board was not a mistake. It was a deliberate act calculated to send a message that government wants this institution in safe hands – in user-friendly hands. They wanted one of their own to supervise the FIC. That is why they put Mr Siame there.

The reversal of the appointment has nothing to do with them not realising that what they were doing was wrong. They thought they could hide and sneak Mr Siame in without people waking up to reject him. They have simply been embarrassed. They realised that insisting on that appointment may have grave consequences for the economy. They have simply withdrawn tactically to fight another day.

There is a lesson in this for all of us. We should not stop exposing wrong, however hopeless our situation might appear. We must not tire or give up to frustrations.

The President and his people may appear invincible today, they might dismiss what we have to say, but nothing is forever. Their time to account will have to come and the public record that we are creating by complaining and exposing what is wrong today will stand against them.

The reversal of Mr Siame’s appointment is a small victory for the voices of reason. It is a sign that the complaints are not going to waste. A few small voices, put together, can record greater achievements than the reversal of Mr Siame’s appointment. Together, we can conquer corruption and bad governance. Our small voices will not always be ignored.

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