Transparency International Zambia says it has received the news of the arrest Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Ronald Chitotela on additional corruption-related charges with great concern.
TIZ Chapter president Reuben Lifuka says his concern is that despite his earlier pleas to Republican President Edgar Lungu to relieve the Minister of his duties to allow him focus on defending himself on allegations of corruption, this has not been done.
“These new allegations provide us another opportunity to appeal to both President Lungu and Hon Chitotela to take this advice seriously. While our call is by no means an indication that Hon Chitotela is guilty, we think that our leaders should do everything possible to ensure that investigations into any allegations of wrong doing are not fettered in any way possible. President Lungu needs to show leadership and ensure that no person is shielded from a free and independent investigation,” Lifuka stated.
According to Lifuka, a serving Cabinet Minister is not an ordinary person and one who wields a lot of power and influence.
He stated that it would not help the government which professed to be serious about the fight against corruption “if those who are politically connected are seemingly treated differently in the eyes of the law”.
Lifuka wondered why Chitotela’s case was being treated in a special way when Emerine Kabanshi, who was Community Development Minister, was fired on mere allegations and it took several months before she was formally arrested and charged.
“President Lungu’s predecessors took action against Ministers who were facing allegations of wrong doing- President Lungu has to send a strong message to his Ministers and all those working with him that he will not protect them from the long arm of the law whenever allegations of impropriety arise. And he can start by taking what clearly is an action that he seems uncomfortable with for whatever reasons of relieving Hon. Chitotela of his ministerial duties,” Lifuka has stated.
He called on President Lungu to facilitate the undertaking of lifestyle audits for all cabinet ministers as “the only way to deal with public concerns of self and illicit enrichment among cabinet ministers”.
“Surely, a leadership that has publicly proclaimed it is running a clean government, should not have any trepidations about a simple lifestyle audit,” stated Lifuka.