Shang’ombo UPND member of parliament Mubika Mubika says it was wrong for President Edgar Lungu to publicly state that he would not fire Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela as that would make it difficult for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate him.
In an interview, Mubika said it would be difficult for junior ACC officers to investigate a sitting Cabinet Minister following the Head of State’s firm refusal to sack him amidst the corruption claims.
Chitotela was nabbed by ACC officers in Lusaka last week on two counts of concealing property suspected to proceeds of crime contrary to Section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010.
“For a Minister to be questioned, I am sure the President was notified and obviously he gave a go ahead. But I think it was wrong for him to go public and say that he can’t relieve him of his duties because he doesn’t want to ‘lose him.’ I think that statement was a terrible mistake. It is the same President who says ‘bring evidence’ whenever people say there is a case of corruption, but the evidence had been put forward; we read why he was arrested and the matter is now in court and I can’t comment further. But the Head of State I am sure was supposed to show leadership by leaving the investigative wings do their work freely without making such a statement publicly. Because I don’t know now if those (investigators) are free to even go ahead with the case in court because as you know, they are also human beings; they are scared for their jobs; they have got families to take care of,” Mubika said.
He recalled how Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya resigned from her ministerial position during former president Rupiah Banda’s regime over corruption allegations.
“I would give you an example of Honourable Dora Siliya when she was accused of corruption when she was in MMD as Minister of Transport and Communication. The case had to go to court while she was minister, she said ‘no this is awkward, I am a Cabinet Minister, coming here in a vehicle with the Zambian flag to be questioned by junior officers, let me be an ordinary person,’ so she resigned as Minister. That was around 2009 to 2010. She continued going to court and she later won the case and President Rupiah Banda reappointed her, that showed leadership!” he recalled.
“I think he has to clear himself in court, the system has always been that if you are serving in government and you are accused of gross corruption, you are relieved of your duties or you resign until the courts make judgement and you can be reappointed. It also happened to honourable (Joseph) Mulyata, he was charged with abuse of power when he removed honourble GBM’s bus on the weigh bridge in Livingstone, he was fired by president Mwanawasa. He went to court, when the court cleared him, he was reappointed. These positions are very intimidating to junior officers and it is not even in order for a minister to be going to court, not for an election petition but for corruption. So, in my opinion, I feel Honourable Chitotela was supposed to be relieved of his duties or at least go on leave so that the people who are investigating him are free to investigate a Zambian citizen, and also that he doesn’t use his office. I will take you back to 2013, him and other colleague were relieved of their duties by late president Micheal Sata, again, it has happened now, he is once more being accused of corruption.”
And Mubika said people were still waiting for investigations of those who were cited by the Auditor General’s Report as directed by President Lungu.
“From the Auditor General’s report, there is massive corruption! We heard the President saying that all those who were cited by the Auditor General’s report should be investigated, that was good from the President, but we are still waiting for action from the investigative wings because the President also gave a go ahead. It is easy to investigate corruption, you just go to the Auditor General’s report and you will find all those irregularities,” said Mubika.
Meanwhile, Mubika said he was confident that the UPND would win the 2021 general elections because people know that they would perform better in government than the PF.