(By Chambwa Moonga in Kasama)
HARRY Kalaba says President Edgar Lungu’s statement on infrastructure minister and Pambashe PF member of parliament Ronald Chitotela’s arrest is an insult to Zambians who expect the Head of State to be exemplary and above corruption.
Last week on Tuesday, the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested Chitotela but released him on bond.
Chitotela was charged with two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime, contrary to Section 71 (1) of the forfeiture of proceeds of crime Act No. 19 of 2010.
Responding to a question on Chitotela’s arrest before departure for Livingstone en route to Sesheke last Thursday, President Lungu wondered what Zambians expected him to do after the minister’s arrest.
He said that a suspect in the eyes of law enforcement agencies could be arrested.
“And they (ACC) have chosen to arrest Honourable Chitotela. So, what has that got to do with me? He is a suspect and in their wisdom, they chose to arrest him. So, what should I do?” President Lungu asked, further claiming that his government was fighting corruption.
“So, they have to prove before the courts of law and I hope they give him a chance to prove himself if he is corrupt. But you see, what I don’t want to do is to politicise the fight against corruption. Remember how I lost Chishimba Kambwili!”
Commenting on the Head of State’s commentary, Kalaba, an ex-foreign affairs minister, observed that President Lungu had poured scorn and further “diminished the little effort his government had on fighting corruption.”
Kalaba stated that the President’s statement was a self-indictment on corruption as “the whole system he presides over is dented with corruption.”
“In the interest of justice, it is only fair that Hon Chitotela, who has been arrested, is given adequate time to prepare for his defence and without a cost to taxpayers. Why should taxpayers and the people of Zambia pay for a person accused of stealing their money?” Kalaba noted in a press statement.
“What kind of service will he provide for the people when he has to meet his lawyers day-in and day-out and we pay him as a minister?”
Kalaba stated that President Lungu should realise that the resources he and his team were abusing belonged to Zambians.
“He is merely a caretaker,” Kalaba stated.
“It is also good to allow the investigative wings space and reasonable time to conduct more investigations without undue influence from the minister and to give investigators free unfettered access to witnesses without witnesses being scared of the weight of the minister in office.”
Kalaba challenged President Lungu to do the lawful and right thing of relieving Chitotela of his ministerial duties.
“President Lungu, what are you scared of? The old adage has reckoned that the guilty are always afraid! Since he (Chitotela) is so dear to you, you can continue using him in your party activities but give him a government ministerial position only once the courts clear him of corruption,” Kalaba stated.
Meanwhile, Kalaba had a busy Saturday, starting the day with an engagement with the differently abled in Mansa, then facing a quizzical PF official in Luwingu, a stint in the market in Kasama and a tiff with friendly but determined Kasama police officers.
In the morning, Kalaba was in Namwandwe area of Mansa where he met several visually-impaired people.
They highlighted numerous challenges they were facing and cited neglect by the government.
The group also prayed for Kalaba that his presidential bid could be successful.
Zambia Association of the Disabled and the Visually Impaired (ZADEVI) Luapula Province chairperson Oswald Chibebeta thanked Kalaba for showing concern with the differently abled.
“We are happy that you have thought of coming to meet us today. Please, continue being close to us so that you can learn more of our day-to-day hardships and we are crying for your help. Be our eyes and let those who have abandoned us feel ashamed by your concern for us,” said Chibebeta, with his remarks being bolstered by his vice Sunday Kasongo.
They then surrounded Kalaba and offered a prayer.
Kalaba told the group that having a visual impairment or any other disability did not mean someone was less human and that they needed care.
“I want to tell you not to worry even if they point fingers at you or even when the community you live in forsakes you. Indeed, it’s true that if there are forsaken people in our communities, it’s those who are visually impaired and those living with other disabilities. They are looked at like social misfits or outcasts in their own country,” Kalaba said.
“What people forget is that people like you deserve empowerment. For me and Democratic Party when we form government in 2021, we’ll be working closely with people like you. I want to assure you that when I become Republican President, you’ll be a key population with special considerations. In this country, the visually impaired and other people living with disabilities have been neglected – they are treated like they are not Zambians nomba lala ufwe tepatali (but patience pays).”
He encouraged the visually impaired and those with other physical disabilities countrywide to unite, unlike being used as electoral pawns during elections.
“The Democratic Party government will seriously empower you and give you what you deserve as Zambians,” Kalaba pledged.
And in Luwingu, Kalaba had an hour-long meeting with St Peter’s Catholic Parish.
After the meeting, he went to greet gathered members of the parish council who highlighted a number of plans it had for Church.
Kalaba pledged a K10,000 to the Church council for its plans to be delivered by the end of this month and briefly gave reasons for his resignation from government over a year ago.
When Kalaba was about to greet some DP members, a handful of PF supporters led by Frank Malama, who introduced himself as Northern Province PF treasurer, waylaid him.
Malama then started an uncoordinated onslaught of questions at Kalaba.
“Sir, ichilipo chakweba ati (the issue is that) you have jumped from PF to start your own. Cinshi icilengele (what’s the reason?) Uyu uleteka ninshi alufyenye (what has the one ruling this country done wrong)?” asked Malama.
Before Kalaba could answer, a group of youths inundated Malama with a list of social hardships, under the PF government, that were heightening desolation.
An inquisitive Malama continued his confrontational engagement with Kalaba and his delegation.
Kalaba told DP members that a person like Malama simply deserved a welcome.
“When a person like him comes, welcome him. He is yet to see the social hardships, maybe. Ba Malama balelya (Mr Malama is eating),” Kalaba said.
He then left Luwingu for Kasama.
Upon arrival in the provincial capital, Kalaba headed to Chambeshi market where he bought fish and assorted stuff.
While at the market, Kalaba caused some to-do among curious marketeers and shoppers who ran around to either see him or shake hands.
When he left the market around 15:20 hours, Kalaba’s convoy was escorted by several taxi drivers who hooted and flashed the DP symbol of a key.
The convoy was on the Kasama – Mpika road where Kalaba was going to see a DP provincial official.
Before reaching the destination, a police pick up van, with about 15 officers on board, joined in the convoy and blocked all the taxis at some point.
When Kalaba’s delegation headed to the DP official’s home, the police van trailed.
The officers’ van parked at the gate and four of them went inside to reason with Kalaba.
An unidentified officer wondered why Kalaba was having a procession in town when he had no police permit to do so.
He also cautioned Kalaba not to address a public meeting because “you don’t have police permit.”
“I don’t want any procession again,” an officer said.
But Kalaba told police officers that: “How would I have stopped the taxi drivers from coming in my way? They saw me and they joined in! I went to buy fish at Chambeshi market. So, what is the problem?”
The policemen then retreated and went to park at a distance, waiting for Kalaba to leave.
He only left after more than two hours and the officers were still waiting near Kasama district Food Reserve Agency offices.
Kalaba went into town and made a close to 10 minutes stop-over at Shoprite and the police van, with visibly weary officers on board, parked outside.
He then left for Mbala around 18:10 hours.