WE are glad that President Edgar Lungu brought up the issue of gassing and the death of innocent citizens in his speech to Parliament the other Friday. In his report to the National Assembly on the progress made towards the implementation of national values and principles, President Edgar Lungu said it was regrettable that over 50 lives were lost in incidences related to gassing. He added that it was sad that the gassing of citizens had shifted to rural areas where some headmen and women were fuelling mob injustices.
Bravo President Lungu for identifying this gassing issue as one that points to the spiritual and moral being of a country. This is how it ought to be; when a President speaks to the nation, all that is affecting citizens must be brought out. A leader should never shy away from the real issues. This is what Zambians expect from their President.
Unfortunately, though, the President’s address on this issue lacked one critical thing. Answers! The President missed the opportunity to explain to the nation what the whole gassing issue was all about and what was going on in the background. While citizens expected that their supreme leader and commander of the armed forces would come with some answers to the puzzle, the man went looking for answers from citizens. He was still black, or at least he pretended to be.
What disturbed us the most is where the President said he is considering constituting a Commission of Inquiry into the gassing of citizens, and added that the said Commission of Inquiry would help determine “the reasons behind this evil act which has left 50 people dead in connection with cases of instant mob justice meted out on those suspected of orchestrating the act.”
If citizens were worried about this issue of gassing, now they should be panicking because the authorities are categorically stating that this matter is dying away without them succeeding to get to the bottom of the case. It means at any moment, this trend of gassing can start again. When the mysterious murders in the community appear to have reduced significantly, no one can be at peace knowing that the serial killer is still on the loose.
Here is where we have a problem with the President’s decision to consider appointing a Commission of Inquiry: If all the soldiers, intelligence officers from the President’s office Special Division, the police and everyone else in the system has failed to find the answers that people are looking for, how will a Commission of Inquiry help? We ask this because from experience, we have learnt that such a commission would have a couple of lawyers/judges, some civil society representatives, a government official, maybe a traditional or church leader and a few other notable public figures. This group would be expected to rely on witness testimonies from members of the public. How is such a group expected to investigate something that the entire State and its apparatus failed to figure out? In our view, this will be another waste of time and precious resources.
And we would like to add volume on the uselessness of commissions of inquiry by reminding our readers that in the past, these commissions have been appointed but yielded either nothing, or brought out information that implicated the party in power, in which case the report from the Commission would be sat upon or trashed. So what’s the point in wasting money? Which report under President Lungu has ever been acted upon in the interest of citizens?
One such useless Commission of Inquiry is the investigation into the causes of electoral violence in the 2016 general elections. When that report was presented to the President at State House, he read it and remained mute. Suddenly, the Head of State became uncomfortable to disclose the contents of the report. After years of being pressured to release the report to the public, State House, under Mr Isaac Chipampe, finally just said “the report is with Ministry of Information, you can request for a copy.” When the ministry was asked why this report had not been released to the public, the Permanent Secretary then said the government had no money to print the document.
To this very day, no ordinary member of society has seen the benefit of the findings from the Commission of Inquiry on voting patterns and electoral violence. So why should the President continue to appoint Commissions of Inquiry, wasting all that money, when there is no benefit? This is a shame. It is clear that the Head of State would want to appoint a Commission of Inquiry not because he believes it is the right thing to do, but because it portrays him as a concerned leader.
Don’t waste time on useless undertakings, Mr President. If everything in the country is falling apart, maybe it’s time to check what is wrong with the leadership. You can’t govern a country through Commissions of Inquiry.