Madam Mumbi Phiri, the deputy secretary general of the Patriotic Front and a very high profile member of the Central Committee, announced a few days ago that there are criminals posing as cadres who are using the ruling party to engage in illicit activities. At first glance, this sounds like a fair complaint for the PF deputy chief executive to make, but a closer look at the implications of what she is admitting demonstrates a glaring problem that affects the rest of the country.

As a ruling party, the Patriotic Front controls government, that is why it is called the governing party. One of the wings of the government is the police. Government also has other law enforcement agencies such the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission. These State wings have the responsibility of enforcing laws and making sure that law breakers are brought to justice. It is also the responsibility of the governing party to ensure that these institutions perform their functions.

Now, this is what we don’t understand. Why would thieves choose to hide behind the governing party to commit crimes? This is like criminals going to hide inside a police station; that’s what madam Mumbi Phiri is suggesting and it does not make sense to us. Why would a normal thief choose to hide in a police station? If a thief was found hiding in a police station, that would say a lot about how that thief perceives that particular police station. It means that thief feels safer hiding inside the police station than outside. By the same token, if a thief hides at a police station and the officers do nothing about it, it says a lot about the character of those policemen and women. It means that the police is a criminal organisation providing a service to criminals.

This is the picture that we are seeing in what Madam Mumbi Phiri is saying. Criminals are choosing to hide in the Patriotic Front because they know how safe it is in there. In fact, it would be justified for us to call the Patriotic Front a criminal organisation. To say criminals are masquerading as PF cadres to conduct criminal activities is not only an understatement, but also a misleading statement. Criminals are not posing as cadres, they are part of the PF hierarchy. They have risen in ranks and are now controlling not only the party, but also government investigative wings. Some of them are conducting criminal activities while donning police uniforms.

Look at what happened in the theft of gold in Mwinilunga! Which party do the arrested suspected criminals belong to? Nobody from NDC, UPND, MMD or PAC has been linked to the theft of gold. The PF provincial chairman himself, who is also a senior member of the ruling party Central Committee, and his subordinates are the suspected thieves. Who else was arrested? Senior police officers who worked in collaboration with the PF officials. Those who have been arrested, we are reliably informed, are pointing fingers at some Cabinet ministers and named heads of investigative wings, as being part of the criminal gold cartel.

Is it fair then for madam Mumbi Phiri to say criminals are posing as PF cadres to conduct illicit activities? We don’t think so. It is very clear in our country today that all one needs to do to get away with a crime is to lift a clenched fist, the Patriotic Front symbol, and the police will look the other way to let a criminal get away scot-free.

It is unfortunate that although party leaders like Mumbi Phiri recognise this problem, they are not prepared to address it. If the Patriotic Front was doing what a civilised governing party does, there is no way criminals would hide behind the party in power and rise so high in rank while committing crimes. Sadly, the President himself, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, pays lip service to the notion that Zambia is a country of laws. When he addresses the country about corruption, for example, he says his administration is committed to rooting out corruption, but the same mouth says those who accuse others of corruption must be arrested.

In the PF, corruption is only a crime when you fall out of the favour with the President, or if you are seen to be harbouring some ambitions to succeed him. At that point, corruption charges will follow you. We don’t need to look very far for proof of this. This is how Chishimba Kambwili was fired, he fell out of favour with the President and had presidential ambitions. And now we see the same pattern visiting the embattled Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya. Not that he is innocent, but whatever he is accused of doing has only become a crime now because the political dynamics against him have dictated so.

Our advice to those who still want to serve this government is that there is no honour among thieves. Dr Chilufya is not the last minister to face an uprising from his beloved criminal organisation called PF. By next year, several other Cabinet ministers will fall out of favour and that’s when corruption charges will follow them. The same law enforcement agencies that are snoring while the country is being raped will wake up and fix them.