As the debate for Mukula smuggling involving high profile government officials raged on in 2018, members of parliament took authorities to task, demanding to know how the so-called confiscated Mukula was disposed and how the money was spent. Lands Minister Jean Kapata gave a statement in the National Assembly, revealing that Mukula proceeds were in fact, spent without passing through the Treasury. In shock, we wrote our editorial opinion:
MARCH 1, 2018:
In February 2018, Lands Minister Jean Kapata failed to justify why ZAFFICO was selling confiscated Mukula logs at US$600 per tonne when the market price was US$2,500 per tonne. But that was the least of our concerns. What we found baffling was the explanation that money realised from this sale was given to Kawambwa Tea, a subsidiary of ZAFFICO.
When Milenge PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima asked Kapata whether a special account had been created for the Mukula proceeds, the minister said the resources were being used to revamp Kawambwa Tea.
“An account has been opened through ZAFFICO and the proceeds coming from the illegal sale of Mukula, Mr Speaker, is being revamped into Kawambwa Tea company which I think had folded up and it has now been given to ZAFFICO to run. So all the proceeds that are being collected from this particular sale is going to revamp the Kawambwa Tea,” said Kapata.
Members of parliament took turns probing the minister, demonstrating to her that failure to remit Mukula proceeds to the Treasury was in breach of the law. This pressure from the Honourable MPs was not enough to convince Madam Kapata, and to date, she still doesn’t see anything wrong with what ZAFFICO did with public resources.
Like the members of parliament observed, no one was questioning government’s decision to revamp Kawambwa Tea, but the people’s representatives in the House were challenging the procedure used for remitting this money to ZAFFICO’s subsidiary.
As a media organisation, we have taken note that the MPs actually missed the bigger problem on this issue. The decision by madam Jean Kapata’s ‘government’ to spend Mukula proceeds is a critical example of what we meant when we said President Edgar Lungu will be prosecuted for accepting to be board chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation.
The bigger scandal about this issue is that, the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO) is a state-owned enterprise incorporated under the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). This means the operations of ZAFFICO and its extended subsidiaries like Kawambwa Tea are the responsibility of President Lungu’s IDC.
Now, there is a huge difference between government and the IDC. While a President sitting with one or two ministers can constitute Cabinet and make decisions on behalf of government, they cannot make decisions on behalf of the Industrial Development Corporation which has its own board and management system.
Therefore, it baffled us to hear Honourable Kapata repeatedly tell the House that “we did not break the law because government made the decision”, without any reference to the role that IDC played in this decision to invest millions of dollars from Mukula proceeds into Kawambwa Tea.
We are here asking President Lungu like the prosecutor in his abuse of office case will ask him, not as a retired head of state, but as former IDC Board chairperson. Who approved this decision at the IDC to invest this money into Kawambwa Tea? Which other board members were present at that meeting which agreed that it was okay for Mukula proceeds; public money to be spent without first remitting it to the Treasury for budgeting? Was this money given to Kawambwa as a shareholders’ loan? What was the modality?
The Prosecutor will demand to know, which IDC board members agreed with Mr Lungu to allow ZAFFICO record a US$1,900 per tonne loss from the Mukula logs. When answering these questions, Mr Lungu will not be with the finance minister or madam Jean Kapata who opened the cane of worms in Parliament. He will be on his own, an ordinary man with no more political influence or State machinery on his side.
How will President Lungu prove his innocence from allegations that he, as IDC board chair, unilaterally used ZAFFICO and Kawambwa Tea to divert Mukula proceeds to his political party’s campaign activities in a bid to remain in power? We ask this because people are watching and there is no one in PF who can explain where the ruling party has obtained such gigantic proportions of wealth without meaningful business operations. Where are the millions of campaign books, bicycles, vehicles, cell phones and clothes being distributed across the country coming from? This money belongs to the people of Zambia, it has been stolen by those in power, converted into campaign flyers called exercise books.
We urge fellow media houses, civil society organisations, lawyers, farmers, teachers, street vendors and everyone else who cares about Zambia to wake up and see what is happening inside this state capture vehicle called IDC. We demand from our members of parliament that they revisit this issue in Parliament and ask the right questions.
What is more dangerous about the IDC is that Zambians have not woken up to realise the power it has to either liberate our country or completely wipe out Zambia’s economic potential. People don’t realise that the Ministry of Energy is a shell today because Zesco, Indeni, Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia and other entities are now all under IDC. Institutions under the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, etc, are now all under President Lungu’s IDC. That is where the action is.
Our MPs must not waste time asking Jean Kapata how she spent Mukula money, the culprit is the Minister of Finance as the shareholder of IDC and also the person in charge of the country’s public resources. Let the Minister of Finance come to Parliament to explain which Chinese bought our Mukula at such a loss, because Zambians will have to wait 50 years before another Mukula tree is big enough to be harvested. We need to know the name of the Chinese buyer and who connected ZAFFICO to this company. After that, the minister should lay on the table of the House, the name of board members at IDC who are making these decisions.
It cannot be business as usual where ministers go to Parliament, lie and get way with their boza. They need to be challenged and humiliated. Crooks have to be called for who they are and criminals alike.