THE dismissal of the Health Minister sounds really good on paper, and it may be in order to appreciate the President for acting decisively, albeit too late. However, we would like to state that Dr Chilufya’s removal doesn’t solve the problem that the President has when it comes to his stance on corruption. The problem that President Lungu has is that he plays double standards in his fight against corruption.
Without trying to sound like those critics who condemned the president for not firing the minister and are still condemning him for firing him, we don’t think the President took time to understand the actual details of the Honeybee scandal. If you fire a minister who is not a controlling officer and leave the signatories on the contract, what message are you sending? What intelligence information are you acting on?
We take note that in his remarks when swearing in the new minister of Water Development and Sanitation, Raphael Nakacinda, President Lungu said: Let me end by cautioning you against indulging in actions that might bring the government into disrepute. Your role is policy formulation in your ministry. I, therefore, do not expect you to usurp the roles of technocrats because such actions will not only entangle you but the rest of government.
Our conclusion is that the President based his decision to fire Dr Chilufya on the fact that he usurped the roles of technocrats, in this case the controlling officers or permanent secretaries in the Ministry of Health. The President is suggesting that the Minister overstepped his boundaries and ended up entangling himself and the government. Let’s work with the President’s facts and assume that this was the case. What about the Attorney General’s role in this scandal?
This Honeybee tender was given a go ahead by the President’s chief legal advisor. Has Mr Lungu taken time to ask Mr Likando Kalaluka to explain why he gave a no objection to such a scandalous tender? This is why we doubt that the President fully understands what was going on in this scandal. If he did, heads would have rolled at ZAMRA, ZPPA and even at Honeybee itself. People would have been arrested for falsifying financial statements to win a government tender. Is Mr Lungu telling us that he is not aware of this? That is not true.
Like we have repeatedly stated in the past, this tender was subjected to what they call a selected bidding process, meaning, it is the government that went out to identify companies to bid for the tender, and Honeybee was among them. Who invited them to take part in this tender given their unproven track record, financial incapacity and their forged documents? Our guess is that whoever did that expected protection from not only the minister or the Attorney General, but from the President himself.
Just yesterday, the main antagonist in this scandal, Mr Zakir Motala posted a picture of himself at a State function shaking hands with President Lungu. He did this while his company is desperately gasping for survival from the US$17 million scandal. Why did he do this? He expects protection from the Head of State; he is trying to show that he and Mr Lungu are friends, that he knows the man personally and he sits at the high table when he goes to State House. So we refuse to believe that President Lungu is shocked with what was happening at the Ministry of Health.
In fact, President Lungu has no moral right to condemn Dr Chilufya for usurping powers of the technocrats. This is a president who has usurped judicial powers, parliamentary powers and the powers of all the people he appointed in government positions. Mr Lungu is the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Inspector General of the Police, Secretary to the Cabinet, Bank of Zambia Governor and the Republican President at the same time. He can’t preach about respecting technocrats.
We are not saying the President should not have fired Dr Chilufya, but our observation is that the President has acted to please the people with a popular but ineffectual dismissal. The people want justice in this scandal, and there is none that we can get from Dr Chilufya alone, even if we took him to court. If this is the President agreeing with us now that this Honeybee tender was awarded corruptly, why should it end at firing Dr Chilufya? Why should the culprits continue to walk freely?
A President who is serious about fighting corruption is expected to allow the law enforcement agencies to step in and do their work without any form of interference from State House. That president is not Mr Lungu. Mr Lungu is the kind of president who protects a minister from prosecution in a matter where there is evidence of corruption, and then fires a minister to please his ego.
It’s the system that President Lungu presides over that is rotten. The dismissal of Dr Chilufya cannot stop corruption in government or at the Ministry of Health. Like we said, one cannot heal diarrhea by stitching the exit. Unfortunately, our President is just adding more stitches.