Elias C. Chipimo
President – National Restoration Party
Heavily Soiled Pants – The Disgraceful State of Corruption and Impunity in Zambia
Wednesday 19 September, 2018
I recall watching a documentary on aircraft several months ago. Part of the programme featured a clip on how waste from toilets on commercial planes is removed: a huge rubber and plastic pipe is attached to the underbelly of the plane and sucks all the offending material into a sanitised container perched on the back of a truck below. The material is taken to a treatment site and later safely disposed of.
The journalist at the centre of the documentary was vividly uncomfortable with the appalling stench of the raw waste as it was being pumped out. The equipment operator on the other hand, seemed almost unaware that there was any problem and appeared bemused at the journalist’s discomfort.
There is a parallel with what is happening in Zambia.
Recent events have highlighted the challenge we have in dealing with theft, corruption, abuse of office, fraud and the mis-allocation or misappropriation of funds. Irregular transactions and credible allegations of theft and corruption by government officials and politically-connected individuals are routinely ignored until they become a topic of persistent public debate. However, rarely will any serious inquiry or punitive action be undertaken, no matter how glaringly credible the allegations. The outcry eventually peters-out and the debate about the awfulness of it all whittles down to “isolated rantings” of civic leaders and Opposition politicians.
A couple of days ago, something odd happened. The UK government’s representative in Zambia confirmed a rumour that DfID was suspending aid until an audit into missing funds intended for the poor and vulnerable in rural communities was complete and satisfactory answers were provided to counter allegations that over $4 million was spent, amongst other things, on vehicles for the agency tasked with disbursing these funds.
Within 24 hours of the confirmation of aid withdrawals from not only Britain but also Sweden, Finland and Ireland, the Zambian Minister for Community Development is unceremoniously fired in what appears to be a hasty and rather panicky attempt at covering up for inaction on a matter that was brought to the Zambian government’s attention at least six months earlier.
It seems that the stench of corruption no longer worries those tasked to lead our nation. Our pants are heavily soiled and weighing us down but our leaders march on undeterred, wondering what all the fuss is about. The stench of corruption is all too familiar for them; it no longer causes discomfort.
The time to change our pants has surely come. It should not take the efforts of outside governments to call out the messy situation in our own backyard. Sadly, we the people have also, it seems, become so accustomed to the smell, we hardly notice how bad it is and in doing so, have given rise to the impunity that allows our leaders to openly parade their mess without an ounce of either shame or regret.
We demand the publication of the full report submitted to the President on the inquiry that was undertaken as well as the immediate prosecution of those alleged to have played a role. We also demand that the same action be taken in respect of all the cases highlighted in the 2017 Financial Intelligence Centre Report, starting with the matter involving the procurement of 42 fire tenders worth less than $300,000 that were purchased at $1 million each.