By CHRISPA MULENGA
WHEN Dr Frederick Chiluba left office, he was put on trial for corruption and abuse of office.
At the trial, it came out that on one trip abroad, Dr Chiluba went on a shopping spree and came home with 11 trunks of personal items made up of 64 shoes; 206 designer suits; 185 shirts; 74 designer ties; 36 jackets and 157 trousers. Total cost: $1.1 million.
I can tell you that no leader in any first world country can afford to spend that much on clothing on one trip and Dr Chiluba was only the leader of a poor country. How do you explain that?
A few years ago, one Austin Liato, a Labour Minister in the Rupiah Banda regime allegedly stole and buried into the ground more than 4 million Kwacha at a time when more than half of his fellow Zambians were wallowing in untold poverty. Just how can you explain that?
A two-roomed house, with a leaking roof and without a toilet or running water in Lusaka’s John Laing compound costs monthly rent of K500. I can confirm that John Laing is home to some of the poorest people in Lusaka. But why would rent be that high for such a ‘house’? Can you really explain that?
In January 2015, President Edgar Lungu estimated his wealth at just around 2 million Kwacha. In August 2016, President Lungu’s net worth grew to about 20 million Kwacha. But according to public knowledge, President Lungu between 2015 and 2016 wasn’t conducting any huge business which could give him that kind of return within such a short period of time. So, how can you explain his wealth?
So, the next time someone tells you that Zambia is poor, tell that person that he does not know what he is talking about. Zambia is not poor and yet our infrastructure are all broken; our people live in poverty, our schools have broken down and our hospitals are very poorly equipped and staffed.
The reason for this poor state of Zambia is not that the continent is poor but that there is too much greed in Africa. When Zambian politicians are chopping, they do not know where or when to stop.
Each time it’s released, the Auditor General’s report is always full of shocking cases of unaccounted for state funds counting in Millions of Kwacha.
Our leaders steal lots of money and keep it in offshore accounts.
At an April 2000 press conference in London, then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (MHSRIP) lamented that ‘Billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders – even while roads are crumbling, health systems have failed, school children have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work.’
But it is not only our leaders who are killing Zambians with their greed. Greed has become very pervasive in our society at all levels.
On the outset, I cited an example of overpriced rentals in Lusaka’s John Laing compound. This problem is everywhere around Lusaka and other overpopulated towns.
Not too long ago, I was searching for a 2 bedroomed house in Rhodespark, North mead, Chalala and Avondale Townships and I was amazed at the rates being quoted.
It is obvious from the rents the landlords are demanding that they are reserving their properties for the Chinese and other foreigners because average Zambians like me cannot afford them.
So, because of greed, in a few years, I predict that properties in Rhodespark, North mead, Chalala, Avondale Townships and places like that will be occupied almost exclusively by the foreigners.
A friend of mine whom I had not met in a long time came to my office not too long ago. After the pleasantries, I asked him what wind had blown him my way. He said, ‘My little girl attends a school not too far from here. I usually come to pick her but today when I arrived, the school said that they are organising extra classes for the children. So, I have to wait but I did not want to return to my office and come back and that is why I passed by to see you and also to kill some time.’
I said to him, ‘Your little girl, Meme? Is Meme not just two years old?’
‘Yes, she is,’ he answered.
I said, ‘Wait, let me understand something. Is your daughter’s school organizing extra classes for two year olds? Is it free?’
He said, ‘What free? It comes at an extra fee and it is compulsory.’
Extra classes for two-year olds in Zambia. Why? Because the schools need to find ways of squeezing more money from parents.
Zambia fought against colonial rule and succeeded in shaking off the colonial shackles. But can Africa wage a war against greed?
You can say that all we need are the right systems in Zambia and we will kill corruption and greed. Trust me, we do have systems in Zambia but because of greed, nobody wants to see those systems work. Those employed to make the system work do not see it in their interest to make the systems work.
The point I am making is that greed is killing Zambia but we cannot count on anyone to fight it for us. We will all collectively and individually have to resolve to give up our greedy ways because it will not take us anywhere. What you gain by your greed, another person takes it from you in his greed.
The Akans have a saying that ‘if you cut off your tongue and roast it for meat, you really don’t have meat.’ And that is a perfect picture of greed. Your greed makes you loot the nation to put up a mansion in Chalala and buy the latest Mercedes Benz. A victim of your greed shoots you in traffic and takes the car from you or he shoots your son and takes the car from him. What have you achieved with your greed?
In Colossians 3:5 the Bible equates greed with idolatry. It is that serious. One way or the other, we need to wake up and realise that greed is killing us and will not take us anywhere. Until we are able to do that, rich Zambia will continue to be reduced to a beggar continent and every Zambian will be held in contempt everywhere he goes.
-The Church Newspaper