Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer and Consultant
In Zambia, the fight against corruption is a popular political agenda that is clearly so obvious and audible among the people themselves than politicians. Even when the sitting government become corrupt and the elected President of the day choose to perpetuate or shield corruption practices, the Zambian citizens within and outside the government will know and still speak out against the vice and the ruling political elites. This is because, Zambia has a political history of having a morally credible leader who passionately hated and fought against corruption on behalf of the poor masses- late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. Consequently, prudent use and respect for public resources was enhanced with the annual Auditor General’s Reports validating his true and result oriented anti-corruption crusade. Under Mwanawasa (2001-2008), corruption practices drastically reduced as he physically suspended, fired or exposed anyone involved any form of abuse of public office and resources from an ordinary procurement officer to Permanent Secretaries and Cabinet Ministers. Speaking on Joy FM’s The Platform program on 2nd October, 2017, Ambassador Mumbi Phiri, PF Deputy Secretary General openly agreed and re-confirmed that the only person who was genuine about the fight against corruption in Zambia was Mwanawasa. In short, the moral standard and political foundation under Mwanawasa makes the fight against corruption in Zambia a collective peoples’ agenda, far above the presidency, ministers, MPs or civil servants as songs, poems, prayers, comedies, dances and movies on corruption are everywhere.
When President Lungu promised to prioritize the fight against corruption during his inauguration ceremony at Heroes Stadium to PF members, voters, diplomats and citizens on 13th September, 2016, the crowd gave him a thunderous applause as he sounded like the right political savior who will uproot and trash the culture of looting, embezzlement and plunder of public resources in Zambia. “Engaging in corruption cannot be a substitute to the pride that comes from personal effort and determination to achieve prosperity….I have sworn to be a servant to every Zambian and no individual or group of individuals or class of individuals shall hold me hostage to serve their personalized interests. I will not disappoint you”, the Zambian President stressed in his speech as the more than 55,000 crowd cheered at him in jubilation. Across Zambia, many citizens concluded that ‘God has surely finally heard our prayers as we have elected a Mwanawasa type leader’. But in the actual sense, it is not empirically wrong to generalize that President Lungu is the total opposite of legendary Mwanawasa and was only fooling his supporters, the Zambian voters and donor community as he has pompously abandoned and betrayed the anti-corruption crusade due to the following reasons:
- In 2017, President Lungu personally presided over and politically endorsed one of the most controversial public procurement in the history of Zambia, the purchase of 42 fire engines at $1m (K10, 000,000) per truck, which were also insured at $25,000 (K250,000) each. In the same year, President Lungu authorized his PF government to make another controversial procurement of 50 ambulances at $288,000 each amounting to over $11 million in total while Toyota (Zambia), a globally renowned car manufacturer and dealer submitted a quotation to supply the same items at about $70,000 but was turned down. The political betrayal of the poor voters by President Lungu and his PF government was not only in the Ministry of Local Government or Health IN 2017, but also manifested itself in other ministries. For example, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education made a public apology to the Parliamentary Accounts Committee chairperson in 2017 for spending over $200 (K2, 700,000) to purchase one vehicle for the Minister and his office furniture. Despite countrywide public outcry on all these visible corruption transactions and practices, President Lungu either remained politically mute or smiled with short statement-‘I will not be forced to fire any of my Cabinet Ministers based on mere corruption allegations’. Clearly, this testimony shows that President Lungu’s promise to fight and reduce corruption was a mere fooling political rhetoric to the poor Zambian voters as he has repeatedly betrayed them to act for good governance.
- Corruption and abuse of public resources in Lungu’s government is the acceptable order of the day and the only endorsed style of governance under PF. All the annual Auditor General’s Reports since 2011 to date show and validate that abuse of public office and resources-tax payers’ money is at its worst under PF and President Lungu. For example, the table below clearly shows a comparative indicators of financial irregularities based on the Auditor General’s Reports for selected key themes:
|Types of GRZ Financial Irregularities||2016
In Kwacha (K)
In Kwacha (K)
In Kwacha (K)
In Kwacha (K)
|Misapplication of funds||162, 000,000 +||28,000,000 +||78,000,000 +||65,000,000 +|
|Unaccounted for Funds||380 000 +||190 000 +||500,000 +||4,000,000 +|
|Unretired Accountable Imprest||17,000,000 +||12,600,000 +||12,500,000 +||8,000,000 +|
|Undelivered materials||116,700,000 +||251,000,000 +||500,000 +||19,000,000 +|
|Unvouched Expenditure||170,000,000 +||349,000,000 +||389,000,000 +||67,000,000 +|
|Irregular payments||1,500,000 +||115,000,000 +||26,000,000 +||14,000,000 +|
|Overpayments||1,000,000 +||26,500,000 +||1,500,000 +||300,000 +|
|Failure to follow Procurement Procedure||500,000 +||35,700,000 +||2,700,000 +||8,400,000 +|
|Wasteful Expenditure||1,500,000 +||39,800,000 +||8,300,000 +||300,000 +|
|Non-Submission of Expenditure Returns||40,700,000 +||6,300,000 +||1,200,000 +||1,700,000 +|
In addition, according to a Press Statement released on 12th January, 2017 by Ellen Chikale, Public Relations Manager at the Auditor General office of Parastatal Bodies and other Statutory Institutions for the financial year ended 31st December 2015, Non-remittance of Statutory contributions to NAPSA and ZRA was found to be K1, 219, 671, 599; questionable payments at K23, 733, 573; unaccounted for stores at K20, 245, 512; Unsupported payments at K5, 557, 547 while failure to recover loans was at K4, 394, 978 respectively. All these huge irregularities and growing emblements are happening against the background of President’s continued promises to fight and end corruption in Zambia. Hence, Roan PF MP, one of the founder members of the PF as well as Minister of Information, Hon. Chishimba Kambwili has on many occasions advanced that “the President has been given so many reports of corruption but he doesn’t want to take action. This means that he is part of the corruption. He also has not told us how he has accumulated K23 million in total assets. As we speak today, people in the President’s inner circle are all making unexplained money”. To us, the growing evidence of corruption in President Lungu’s government as evidenced by these reports from the Auditor General office speak the same political message-how African leader fool and betray their poor voters.
3. On many occasions, Lungu has lamented that his intelligence reports show that many of his political executives make huge deposits of money into their bank accounts on either a daily or weekly basis-this is on record on social media. Has Lungu fired or suspended any top government officials on this merit? No, President Lungu does and will not suspend or fire any Cabinet Minister or Permanent Secretary on overt corruption allegations. Every time there is public outcry to act on corruption against specific political executives, the President is on record to have emphasized that ‘I will not be forced to fire any of my Ministers based on mere corruption allegations’. This also simply validates the fact that his political rhetoric to fight and reduce corruption is merely another typical way of fooling and betraying African poor voters than a true political agenda of good governance. Speaking to Lusaka Times on October 21, 2017, Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) Leader, Hakainde Hichilema rightly observed that President Edgar Lungu’s fight against corruption is mere deception as he lacks the moral authority and desire to fight graft in the country. He was and is factually right.
4. The fact is that, President Lungu may be committed to fight corruption in his heart but he has not and will not openly, honestly and practically start to fight corruption in Zambia either today or tomorrow for special reasons known to him. In his resignation letter to the President Lungu on 2nd January, 2018, then Cabinet Minister of Foreign Affairs, PF Bahati MP, Hon. Harry Kalaba, observed and argued among other reasons that “there comes a time in a person’s life when it becomes necessary to die to self for the good of others and if not for that reason, at least to stand for one’s cherished ideals and values….“we cannot proceed to manage national affairs with cold indifference when the levels of corruption are swelling and being perpetrated by those who are expected to be the solution”, he stressed. Therefore, it is not a mere rumor that President’s Lungu government is corrupt, his own Cabinet Ministers who are morally upright are now openly confirming it via resignations. This is where, why and how Lungu has fooled and betrayed his voters and supporters across the country.
5. He promised to empower the poor as he was also a poor leader. In his inauguration Speech on 13th September, 2016 at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, President Lungu observed that “I have no hesitation telling you my countrymen and women that I myself come from a humble background and as a result, I am deeply touched by the difficulties and miseries that ordinary people experience in terms of material possessions”. But today (within 2-3 years), he is believed to be among the richest Zambians. On 10th January, 2018, the Zambian Observer controversially reported that ‘President Lungu powered his way into immense wealth over the past two years -from the net worth of K2 million in 2015 to over K27 million in 2016 while as at the end of December, 2017, Lungu moved remarkably to the second spot of the richest people in Zambia with a net worth of around K400 million which is attributed to his investment with Scania trucks and holding majority shares with undisclosed top companies in Zambia’. How does this new development about his fast growing riches and shocking acquired wealth reconcile with his promise to empower the poor Zambian masses? While it is overtly clear that President Lungu has miraculously empowered himself in the first shortest period in the history of Zambia, the fact remains that this is a classic example of how African politicians fool and betray their voters and citizen.
6. Addressing more than 55,000 political supporters at Heroes Stadium on 13th September, 2016 in his inauguration speech, President Lungu noted that “I can only totally submit myself to the good lord almighty, to continually guide me to dutifully, diligently and faithfully, with humility, fulfil my duties and obligations to our country”. Clearly, President Lungu has both rationally forgotten his commitment to be faithful in the execution of his duties in the fight corruption and has betrayed the poor voters by terribly neglecting one of his duties as a President- to protect public resources and the national treasury on behalf of the masses. Factually, President Lungu has deliberately forgotten that, in his 2016 inauguration address, he also promised that “my dear friends, I indeed have a heavy debt to ensure that at no time should you ever feel you had misplaced your trust and confidence in me. I won’t let you down”! In the fight against corruption, it is certain that President Lungu has not just lost public trust, but he has let the Zambians down and also left a sense of political hopelessness among citizens.
In conclusion, former Minister of Information and PF Roan MP, Hon. Kambwili is accurate when he told the Mast Newspaper on 28th December, 2017, that “what the PF have achieved in 2017 is just corruption. The President has shown no political will to fight corruption. Most leaders have become rich without having anything to show for their richness. This has been the year that most corruption has been committed in the history of Zambia and it’s under the PF and its leader Edgar Lungu”. If this forgoing is factual, then it is true to generalize that although President Lungu has succeeded at skillfully fooling Zambians and politically betraying the masses on this crucial tenet of democracy and good governance called corruption, it is also very sad to stress that President Lungu’s continued smile at corruption is against a background where poverty levels in the country remain unacceptably high, with more than 54.4% of Zambians living below the poverty line. Addressing the 30th ordinary session of the assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 27th January, 2018, Vice President Inonge Wina, as Zambia’s representative noted that ‘corruption is a cancer that destroys the fabric of society’. But this is another political formula of merely fooling and betraying poor African voters as Ms. Wina has never said this good message to President Lungu or coughed against the provocative and controversial public procurements of 2017. In other words, this is typically how many African Presidents and political leaders fool and betray their poor citizens and political voters.