(By Ben Mbangu and Chambwa Moonga)

THE ruling Patriotic Front has challenged the Financial Intelligence Centre to name individuals cited in its 2018 trends report. PF Central Committee member Kebby Mbewe accused the FIC of acting like an opposition party. He said Zambians must not blame President Edgar Lungu for their suffering today but understand that their pain was biblical.

Mbewe also accused opposition UPND and NDC leaders Hakainde Hichilema and Chishimba Kambwili respectively of having an abnormal appetite to become Republican president.

He said Hichilema and Kambwili would not win the elections in 2021 by tarnishing President Edgar Lungu’s name by calling him “corrupt, corrupt, corrupt”.

“We are extending an olive branch to FIC to name individuals cited in their report otherwise if they fail we are going to suspect them to be working with the opposition in tarnishing the image of the country and our Head of State,” Mbewe said.

He said PF stood by the guidance the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) gave regarding the matter.

He said it was strange that FIC was sounding like the opposition in the manner it “did its report” which some people were now using to tarnish the country’s image.

Mbewe said Zambians now need wisdom from God.

“Zambians must not blame President Edgar Lungu for their suffering today but understand that their pain was biblical because of the serpent that deceived creation, which was Adam and Eve,” he said. “Zambians should never listen to serpents from the opposition like Chishimba Kambwili who is now acting in that manner of a serpent. Kambwili is a serpent, he is a deceiver, wanting to deceive Zambians and Zambians should watch out.”

Mbewe said Zambians must not waste their time to think that the opposition could win the 2021 elections.

“Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba had more strength in the opposition than Kambwili but they lost and even now UPND is in the pact with 10 political parties but still they are nothing. Us, as PF, we believe in the Zambian people,” he said.

“Yes there are economic challenges here and there in the country but the good news is that the people are still with us because they are seeing our efforts and the goodwill from the Head of State. Challenges are part of life, it’s normal to have problems because they are worldwide. It’s not only in Zambia.”

Mbewe said no amount of malice peddled against President Lungu would make Zambians hate him.

He said those aiming at gaining political mileage out of President Lungu’s statement regarding the FIC report must be sensitive in the manner they were doing so to avoid misleading Zambians and tarnishing the country’s image.

“We only have one Zambia so if the opposition are going to use the FIC report which does not mention names of individuals involved to tarnish the image of the country, by talking about corruption, they should know that it is not the Head of State who will suffer from this negativity but the entire country and the common man on the ground,” Mbewe said.

“So we urge those who speak ill of the country to always remember that it is not President Lungu to suffer but ordinary people on the ground.”

He said it was irresponsible for opposition leaders like Kambwili and Hichilema to twist every statement President Lungu makes.

“President Lungu as a father of the nation has a right to make observations on any institution because he is the Head of State. So it is irresponsible of the two leaders to gain political mileage out of the statement that the Head of State made at the airport about FIC report,” Mbewe said.

He advised the opposition to be responsible.

“They won’t win elections in 2021 by misleading Zambians or tarnishing President Lungu’s name by calling him ‘corrupt, corrupt, corrupt’,” Mbewe said. “That will not make them gain votes, that will not make them win. What they are only doing is they are misleading people of this country and people will react by hating the opposition because of the stance it has taken. It is now visibly seen that this is meant for malice. And we are urging them that if they want to win elections, let them bring policies that will attract Zambian people.”

He said opposition leaders should start showing maturity in the way they addressed national issues.

“What type of opposition do we have when miners are being laid off, [and] when as PF we say we repossess the mine, the two opposition leaders are busy attacking government?” Mbewe asked. “When we keep quiet they are attacking. The opposition is behaving so childish. Let them concentrate on polishing their policies and not insulting the President anytime they open their mouths.”

Mbewe said wanting to win elections by using propaganda to claim that President Lungu was corrupt would not take the opposition anywhere.

“If HH and Kambwili have solutions to problems facing the country, let them bring them to the round table. We know that what government is doing is for the best of this country,” said Mbewe. “HH and Kambwili have an abnormal appetite of becoming presidents. And this is why they feel like they can use their abnormal appetite to undermine the Zambian people’s minds by telling them lies about the President so that they can dent his name but Zambians this time are well informed.”

Mbewe said the opposition would not enter State House by using malice.

Meanwhile, Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya has wondered why two, three cases relating to tax evasion in the 2018 Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report should “obsess and distract” the government from addressing current economic turbulence, among other responsibilities.

She claimed that the government fights corruption every day of the year.

The 2018 FIC on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Trends report has cited nine law firms for facilitating money laundering.

The FIC report, that was released in Lusaka on May 31, revealed an increase in cases of suspicious transactions reported, which now amounts to K6.1 billion.

The Centre revealed that the nine law firms helped criminals to invest and make transactions to foreign accounts.

According to the FIC report, some of the illicit activities that the nine law firms engaged in were to facilitate the acquisition of property, land and motor vehicles on behalf of the money launderers.

The undisclosed law firms were reported to have been engaged in money laundering scams amounting to K365 million.

Siliya said on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme, that the FIC report was not special because it highlighted what was already being combated throughout the year.

“This government has demonstrated its commitment [to fight corruption]. The fact that we are even talking about it here is because we are such an open society. Even rumours, facts sometimes get lost along the way,” she said.

“The report is not special in the sense that this job is done every day, 365 days a year. Every day there is work on fighting corruption in this country. So, there is nothing special about the report in the sense that it beats what happens 365 days a year. This is just one part of the whole fight against corruption. The FIC does its job – collecting intelligence. The OP (Office of the President) does its job, the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) does its job, the police do their job and finally, we expect that justice will happen in the courts.”

The minister admonished the FIC, saying it was alarming the public by merely sharing intelligence information.

She, however, indicated that the government was not averse of the FIC because the Centre was part of the government.

“Just to say to the public [that] money moved from here to there but the explanations are not being given, sometimes you are just alarming the public. That’s why intelligence, by nature, is not for consumption by everybody; it’s supposed to be for the professionals so that where that intelligence has been verified then it can go to court,” Siliya explained.

“As the investigative wings take that information, along the way, some of those cases may fall off because there will be explanations. Others will ultimately find themselves in court. So, that’s why we are saying it’s extremely dangerous to share raw intelligence before it’s verified by other [investigative] wings and they have concluded their investigations.”

She added that the government could not allow one component of it to begin to consider that: “it is above everybody and cannot follow its own law, including Section five of the FIC.”

The minister pointed out that the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) was every day busy working to offset possible tax evasion.

“When the FIC has intelligence that somebody is evading tax, instead of distracting the public, they have to take that information to ZRA. ZRA will announce if somebody has been evading tax,” she said.

“So, why should two, three cases relating to tax evasion in the report obsess and distract us from doing work for the people of Zambia [like] addressing the turbulence in the economy, addressing the mealie-meal prices, addressing issues of mining on the Copperbelt? That’s what the Zambians are looking for! But here we are, the whole nation, distracted by…. There are other cases outside the FIC report. But we are being distracted by only a few [cases] and yet we should allow the investigative wings to do their work.”

Siliya underscored that the government’s position on the FIC report was that its telling contents were intelligence information.

“It’s not for public consumption until it has been through the processes that should prove it and take it to court. Then we can hear the facts in court and justice can be done,” noted Siliya.

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