How African Presidents must Honor Campaign Promises: The Case of Zambia’s President Lungu and the arrest of ‘Big Chitotela’ on Corruption Charges

By Chris Zumani Zimba

Pambashe-PF-Member-of-Parliament-Ronald-Chitotela-e1458303872431-597x498.jpgAddressing 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 eloquently noted that ‘corruption is a cancer that destroys the fabric of society’. Yes, she was totally right and stand seconded almost by everyone. Late January 2019, Transparency International released its “2018 Corruption Perceptions Index” which revealed that there was an increase in corruption perceptions in Zambia as the SADC state was among the world’s most corrupt countries at 105 out of 180 globally ranked states while being placed 18th in Sub-Saharan Africa which is ranked as the worst performing region in the world. This perception index is not news here as it is validated by the country’s Annual Auditor General’s Reports. It practically means that Zambia has many kleptocratic and thieving elements in its governance and societal institutions such as the executive, judiciary, legislature, NGOs/CSOs, religious organizations, private sector and community level entities.

On 4th February, 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) mad a rare and controversial move in seemingly pragmatic response to public outcry and the 2018 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index” against Zambia; they arrested a high profiled ruling party politician, the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Hon. Ronald Chitotela. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Assistant Public Relations Manager, Dorothy Mwanza confirmed the arrest of the 47 year old Cabinet Minister to ZNBC News in Lusaka by adding that, Hon.Chitotela was arrested on two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime which is contrary to Section 71 subsection one of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010.

She said that details in the first count are that on unknown dates but between the July, 2016 and October 2018 in Lusaka District, Mr Chitotela did conceal a property namely plot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni, Lusaka. She said that in the second count on dates unknown but between the July, 2016 and October 2018, the Minister did conceal a property namely the remaining extent of Subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill Lusaka. The ACC officer concluded that both properties were disguised in the names of Diris Mukange property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.

This arrest of Hon. Chitotela is an interesting political case for Zambia because, many stakeholders accuse President Lungu of failing to fight corruption in the country. Specifically, the Zambian leader has been criticized for being inconsistent in the fight against corruption by repeatedly committing to do so in many of his public addresses while, on the other hand, he is shielding his top advisers and ministers who are being investigated to face justice.

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 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. Clearly, the arrest of Hon. Chitotela who is a saving Cabinet Minister on corruption charges loudly speaks to this important political magnum and good governance commitment between President Lungu and the Zambian people. It is the visible  and louder step of walking the anti-corruption talk.

The gesture where President Lungu is freely allowing state investigative agencies to independently and professionally operate to the extent of charging and arresting any public official including his own serving cabinet ministers suspected to be abusing public office or stealing tax payers money like in the case of Hon. Chitotela by ACC is not just overt political integrity and commendable respect for the constitutional rule of law, but also an imperative hallmark in strengthening political transparency and leadership accountability in national governance and public resource management. This is how credible political leaders honor campaign promises to their voters and win stakeholders confidence to be trusted with state power and management of national and sovereign resources; President Lungu is now coming very politically clean by proving to be walking the talk in the fight against corruption in his government especially that the 2018 Global Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International published in January 2019 showed that Zambia’s corruption perception was on the increase.

It is imperative to stress that the fight against corruption is a popular political agenda that is clearly so obvious and audible among the Zambian people themselves than politicians. As long as President Lungu continues to defend the rule of law where anybody regardless of their political rank or status in society found wanted on corruption charges are investigated and arrested by police or ACC, the sitting president will leave an admirable leadership legacy and will always be remembered and saluted in like manner as late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa as well as Michael Chilufya Sata. This is important because that is what the current Head of State and Government has repeatedly promised the Zambian voters and citizens during his public speeches in campaign rallies, inauguration ceremonies or opening of parliament.

In conclusion, this arrest helps us to we go back to the political promises of President Lungu and access how and where it fits. Addressing more than 55,000 political supporters at Heroes Stadium on 13th September, 2016 in his inauguration speech, President Lungu promised Zambians 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 with specific reference to the new development where his own cabinet minister was arrested and charged by ACC, it is certain that President Lungu is fulfilling his campaign promises of not letting the Zambian voters and people down at any point in national governance and public resources management. This gesture is commendable in any constitutional democracy as it helps to improve good governance and lifts public trust and citizen confidence between the elected governors and the electing governed.

Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Radio, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:20hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS) outside his usual commitments.

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