OUTGOING Transparency International Zambia Chapter president Reuben Lifuka has made very interesting observations about the casual approach that our country has taken towards the fight against corruption. Mr Lifuka’s message is one which we believe resonates well with many patriotic Zambians.

For the first time in this country, we have sets of laws when it comes to dealing with the corrupt. Those in government are telling the citizens of Zambia to stop making noise about corruption in the country because “this is giving the country a bad image”. However, the very people who want citizens to desist from talking about corruption are trotting from one radio station to another talking about the corruption of opposition leaders allegedly committed many years ago during privatisation. To those in government, corruption is only when it involves private citizens; when a government official is arrested, it’s victimisation.

Mr Lifuka is telling us that there are consequences when a government decides to shield the corrupt. He is teaching us that Zambia is in the state that it is in because the leadership has embraced corruption, and this has caused a disaster as it is depriving people of resources and services.

“The corrupt have now reached a point of impunity, they are not scared of the law. The long arm of the law does not scare them anymore because they know in most cases, they have the political backing. You have heard and seen how those that have alleged to be corrupt whenever they are called by ACC, they will put up a show, draw all manner of cadres or supporters to accompany them. Impunity settles in and that is where you start seeing the bigger problem of corruption, state capture. State capture is referencing to private interests, really taking over the shaping of public policy because you have few people who have the interest to protect whether it is accessing government contracts or accessing power, or retaining power because they want to have this extractive political corruption to their benefit, they capture the state. So they now determine public policy direction, budget direction,” Lifuka said.

“The corruption we are talking about is serious, corruption has turned our country to a large extent to an unmitigated disaster because it is depriving people of resources or services. So we shouldn’t take corruption lightly. The corruption we are seeing has been progressive, it has just not happened today, we have been seeing corruption happening overtime even when you go back to the UNIP era. What the PF have failed to do is to provide decisive leadership to deal with this growing cancer of corruption, particularly because the PF came on an anti-corruption platform, they were quite strong about the corruption that was in the MMD under president Rupiah Banda, they have fallen short on that because they have not taken decisive action. We have seen the PF adopt a similar stance like what president Chiluba had, ‘give me the evidence’. We still see the same attitude. What we are also seeing is that corruption is becoming endemic in the entire fabric of the public sector and the private sector. We have seen more people who should not have access to public tenders having public tenders. We have seen overpricing of tenders.”

We agree with Mr Lifuka’s observations. Zambia is in the state that it is in because of corruption. We are failing to pay debt because most of the money we borrowed ended up in individual private pockets. The poor in the rural areas of Zambia are starving because of corruption, they can no longer grow their cash crops or food for household consumption the way they used to do because there is no viable farmer support programme. The corrupt are sharing inputs among themselves and selling to commercial famers.

Corruption hurts everyone. The impact of corruption goes beyond the corrupt individuals, the innocent colleagues who are implicated, or the reputation of the organisations they work for. Ultimately, Zambians are the ones who lose out. Corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests. It also wastes our taxes or rates that have been earmarked for important community projects – meaning, we have to put up with poor quality services or infrastructure, or we miss out altogether.

Our politicians tell us that talking about corruption is bad for the economy and for national building, but that’s just as deceitful as politicians can be. How can condemning corruption damage a country? How can you build a nation by tolerating corruption? Zambians must not accept this kind of reasoning that aligns with criminality. Instead, our people must speak and speak out loud.

It is in everyone’s interest to report corruption and also to publicly condemn it. The more people talk and condemn corruption, the more those in power will realise that the public is watching what they are doing. Like Laura Miti’s ACA says, a baby that doesn’t cry dies on the mother’s back. We must encourage those that speak against corruption to add volume and never to be silenced.

That is why today, we wish to acknowledge the work of Mr Reuben Lifuka as a true anti-corruption champion. The outgoing Transparency International Zambia Chapter president has been consistent and relentless in his efforts to speak against corruption and to challenge policy makers in government. Sometimes, he has been the lone voice, but that did not discourage him. When others were afraid and selective in condemning graft, Mr Lifuka stayed the course and fought all manner of corruption.

We are sad that he is leaving his position in Zambia, but the corrupt must not be comforted by this news because he remains the vice-president for the global Anti-Corruption body. Therefore, this is not the last you are hearing from our Anti-Corruption hero. We shall continue to work with fearless voices like that of Mr Lifuka until this fight is won and until we get Zambia to zero tolerance to corruption.

Mr Lifuka ran a good race in his role at TIZ, and Zambia desperately needs more leaders like him in the civic space. We need vibrant, fearless civil society organisations like TIZ has been under the leadership of this anti-corruption champion. Indeed, apart from lessons, we cannot take away anything from Mr Lifuka’s literature on corruption.

Aluta continua, brother and comrade. The fight goes on.