THE arrest, prosecution and subsequent acquittal of Cabinet Minister Ronald Chitotela last year without him vacating office said everything that needed to be said about President Edgar Lungu’s weakness on governance. While the whole country was expecting him to decisively suspend the minister to pave way for genuine investigations into corruption allegations, Mr Lungu said he was not going to fire and lose friends over allegations. And indeed, the outcome of the Minister’s trial was an inevitable acquittal. All the remaining charges that the Anti Corruption Commission had against Mr Chitotela were discarded.
With that stance, the Head of State exposed himself in a manner that no leader should allow to be exposed. Look now. Since the President failed to act on Honourable Chitotela, his hands are now tied on Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya. He cannot fire or suspend his own minister because he has set a precedent that whoever is accused of corruption must first be found guilty by the courts of law before stepping aside. This kind of governance is extremely dangerous.
President Lungu is also showing us that he is a very careless Head of State. He is living very dangerously with his ministers. This approach he has taken where he hides behind a finger as he sends attack dogs on his ministers and former advisors will surely boomerang and bite him where it pains the most. When law enforcers with all the evidence in their hands, fail to prosecute and secure convictions for crimes committed by government officials, it means only one of two things. It’s either they have come across information that implicates the Head of State or the accused persons have threatened to expose the appointing authority.
That is what happens when a leader involves himself or herself in shady dealings with subordinates. Instead of teaching them good governance, you scheme with them on how to steal without leaving traces; how to evade the law and where to hide proceeds of crime. What do you think will happen to you when one of these people you steal with gets cornered? They will use you as their life insurance. In the end, you become a weak leader, one who cannot exercise your authority fully.
There are decent ways in which a sober President is going to deal with his ministers. Those are his own Cabinet ministers, he appointed them at his own will and pleasure. Why is he treating them like shameless morons or cadres from the streets? By subjecting his ministers to such humiliation, he is undermining his own authority. You can’t have ministers getting arrested and being prosecuted while occupying office and you watch as President.
We are not in any way saying Dr Chitalu Chilufya is a clean man. In fact, we have our own dossiers of his dealings, and we hold the view that he has not been a very honest public servant. Therefors, there is nothing wrong with Dr Chilufya or indeed any other minister being investigated by the law enforcement agencies, but there are procedures and guidelines on what a President is supposed to do when one of his appointees is found to be at loggerheads with the law.
The manner in which Dr Chilufya is being treated by the President is very unprofessional. It says a lot about the leadership vacuum that we have in this country. How can a leader who fails to act decisively on erring appointees claim to be in control of government? A President needs to inspire his leadership and his citizens. President Lungu has sunk so low in the fight against corruption that we wonder if there are still any citizens who take him seriously when he condemns the vice.
We know that there is a whole background of political skirmishes behind the investigation and imminent arrest of Dr Chilufya, but President Lungu must stop taking Zambians for fools. If he has lost trust and confidence in his Minister of Health, let him revoke his appointment. If he still has unfinished business with him, let him leave the man alone, because we all know this has got nothing to do with corruption. All the crimes that Dr Chilufya is accused of committing were not done yesterday, where was the President and his ACC? Why did they have to wait until this particular moment?
This is the reason why good citizens shy away from politics because, indeed it is a dirty game. And Dr Chilufya himself must learn that there is no honour among crooks. He has seen how his own President who has been promising him milk and honey all along has suddenly turned against him. All the things they did together have been ignored. If he has any integrity left in him, this is time for him to step down. Yes, they will follow you until they finish you politically, but that is exactly what you sign up for when you join politics and accept appointments from leaders who stand for nothing.