DURING his acceptance speech at his residence, Monday, President-elect Hakainde Hichilema assured outgoing president Edgar Lungu that he should not worry because he was going to be okay. This message has been understood by many within and outside the UPND, as a statement from the new Head of State that the wrongdoers in the Patriotic Front must be forgiven, “for they knew not what they were doing”.
We would like to give a full benefit of the doubt to President-elect Hichilema and hope that this is not what he means. We say this because in previous interviews, we have heard him say that thieves and looters would be prosecuted under the UPND government, but that it would not be the job of the President to issue instructions for fixing people. That is a good stance to make. What has surprised us in the recent statement is that the new President seems to be giving an assurance to his predecessor.
If that is what he means, then the question we must ask is why? It is important for President-elect Hichilema to clarify this so that people do not draw wrong conclusions. Already some Zambians are speculating that perhaps that is the deal that was entered into before President Lungu conceded defeat. But that cannot be allowed because it is the people of Zambia who elected Mr Hichilema, it was not Lungu.
The issue of forgiving should not come in. First of all, the law does not permit a President to pardon a suspected criminal. All criminal suspects are supposed to be prosecuted and if they are found guilty, they must be sentenced. It is at that point that the President can decide to invoke his prerogative of mercy to pardon that convict. If Mr Lungu was involved in any crimes, and there is evidence to that effect, his immunity must be lifted and he must face the law like any other citizen.
It’s not about President Hichilema’s heart, but the law. His response, every time someone asks what he will do about Mr Lungu, should simply be that the law will clear him. When he says Lungu will be okay implying that he would not be prosecuted, it means he is already commanding the Law Enforcement Agencies not to act on crimes committed, it means he is telling them to do as he says and not as the law provides. How will that make him any different from Mr Lungu?
President-elect Hichilema has not even been sworn in yet. He does not know what crimes Mr Lungu may have committed because he has not had an opportunity to sit with institutions such as the Financial Intelligence Centre, ACC and DEC to understand how Mr Lungu ruled this country and what financial transactions he was involved in. This is what Mr Rueben Lifuka is trying to explain to him, and we totally agree.
LIFUKA: “While we welcome and support the public apologies from those who were in the PF for the atrocities they committed, we want to urge the UPND alliance to proceed with caution. Some of the same unsavoury and corrupt persons, will seek to find refuge in the UPND Alliance and hope that their deeds will not be investigated and prosecuted. There are some people whose survival depends on their proximity to power. It will be a betrayal of public trust if the new administration starts giving assurances to the outgoing regime that they will not be investigated for their wrong doings under the façade of forgiveness and reconciliation. There should be no political protection of the corrupt or any interference in the work of the ACC, FIC, DEC and others who may have an interest to pursue investigations and prosecution in some of the corruption cases which the outgoing administration simply ignored.”
We know that President Hichilema seeks to make a point that he will not be vindictive and that his focus will be to reverse the wrongs that the PF committed under president Lungu. But it must be noted that any reversal of the illegal transactions that the outgoing regime made must be reversed through a process that is backed by the law. No matter how illegal a transaction was, reversing it must follow the law, otherwise there might be other legal implications.
We need to remind the UPND leadership about what happened on the sale of ZAMTEL to LAPGreen of Libya by the MMD government. When Micheal Sata won the elections in 2011, he immediately ordered the reversal of the transaction and nationalised the asset without understanding the legal implications. What followed next? LapGreen sued the government, we lost the case and we now owe the Libyan government millions of dollars… in fact we have been defaulting on payment for that obligation, plunging us into deeper problems. All this happened because a newly-elected president wanted to show off powers to the original wrongdoers.
If Mr Lungu stole, he must be prosecuted, he will be okay in prison since he claims that he recently refurbished the correctional facilities.