FIGHTING corruption is a lonely undertaking. Many people in this country who despise corruption do not have the courage to condemn it publicly. Some can’t talk about the rampant corruption that has been going on because the culprits are their close friends while some are just cowards and they get intimidated very easily. Some try to talk, but as soon as they open their mouths, a ‘carrot’ is shoved down their throats and they shut up.
The Musa Mwenyes, the Rueben Lifukas, the Mutembo Nchitos, the Laura Mitis of this world are very few and whenever they condemn corruption, whenever they take to radio or TV to name and shame individuals and the companies involved in corruption, they only get congratulatory messages in their inboxes. Publicly, they are left to look like they are lunatics who have personal scores to settle with those in government or doing business with the government. Fighting corruption is a lonely undertaking.
This is the situation that we find ourselves in as a newspaper. When we told the story about Honeybee, a walk-in pharmacy located in Kamwala winning a US$17 million dollars drug supply contract, we were a lone voice. Other media houses looked and turned their backs. For reasons we have already explained above, they did not have the ability to take part in exposing this scam, which now arguably stands as the biggest corruption scandal of 2020. In the end, News Diggers remained looking like a petty newspaper that was chasing a ghost. People even accused us of trying to fight personal battles while others claimed we were being paid to wage a smear campaign. But we have said it before and we will say it again: we are not and will never be hired guns! Our interest is to fight corruption and the corrupt, regardless of their social class or political affiliation.
Very few people believed the alarming facts that we dug out and published in this Honeybee investigation, as such, there was no preventative action against the perpetrators of the crime. If all well-meaning Zambians and media houses joined hands with the anti-corruption champions we referred to above in protesting against the award of this corrupt tender, the country would have saved US$17 million. But it’s a lonely undertaking, fighting corruption.
Today, after the matter has gone to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, this is when citizens are waking up to believe what was published over six months ago. Well, unfortunately, the damage has already been done, the money has been wasted and we now have to face the ugly consequences of corruption. The whole country now has to pay for the greed and crookedness of a few individuals at the Ministry of Health, at Honeybee and at ZAMRA.
We must say that the Ministry of Health and Honeybee scandal is one which must invoke every citizen’s emotions because it directly affects people’s lives. To borrow Honourable Mwansa Mbulakulima’s words, when a government procures expired ARVs, leaking condoms or toxic drugs for its citizens, that is genocide. This is tantamount to mass murder. Expired drugs are harmful to human beings and can have lethal effects to a person taking them, and the same can be said about damaged or leaking condoms.
How can a government spend so much money teaching the young population to abstain or engage in safe sex, and then the same government goes to procure condoms which can easily transmit sexually transmitted infections? How many years does that carelessness and cruelty take us back to? How many years of the HIV/AIDS fight does that act defeat? This is genocide indeed. A leader who allows such cruelty must be guilty of committing crimes against humanity.
Sadly, the corrupt are getting away with these crimes because the people are docile. Firstly, they don’t want to actively be involved or to be seen to be in the forefront fighting corruption, and then they also don’t want to stand up to the government authorities to say “enough is enough”! It is strange how our people find satisfaction in fighting corruption by posting memes and funny comments on social media. In the end, the corrupt win and the scandal gets overtaken by events. This is why we fail to develop as a country because we spend a lot of time on matters that don’t matter and ignore issues that affect our lives.
If we let such scandals pass and do nothing to demand justice, we are not victims, we are accomplices to the crimes and we are as guilty as the perpetrators.