End mediocrity, corruption, greed in national leadership structures – NAREP

Elias Chipimo
Elias Chipimo

NAREP Press conference: 23.01.2018

My fellow Zambians, I speak to you with a heavy heart. I speak to you at a time when mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect have reached the highest levels ever witnessed in our history. Not even in my wildest nightmares did I ever foresee a situation in which serving government officials and so-called leaders would be falling all over themselves to amass as much wealth as they can greedily lay their hands on and within the shortest possible time.

At a time when we have massive unemployment, cholera, delayed agricultural inputs, unsustainable national debt, increasing child prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, early marriages, teenage pregnancies, gender-based violence, defilement, and corruption the party in power has simply folded its hands and decided to act as if someone else was in charge.

The response to each of these challenges by our so-called leaders has been to issue threats and blame someone else for the ills they have single-handedly caused to the people. Our so-called leaders are fighting battles with ordinary citizens trading on the streets – the very people they should serve – and putting them out of business without any alternative plan as to how they will fend for their families.

On a weekly basis, the Patriotic Front administration is being accused by its own rank and file of stealing from the public purse and doing everything within its means to rob the nation blind. What is happening is only the beginning of a sad and slow death of a party that had promised so much hope to the people of Zambia when its founder, the late President Michael Sata began his crusade to lead our country.

Which leader in their right frame of mind remains silent in the face of strong allegations of corruption from former ministers within the very same administration? Only a leader who believes he can get away with it. Which country can allow its most precious natural resources like the Mukula forests to be wantonly plundered for personal gain? Only a country whose leaders have become so blinded by greed that they are willing to sacrifice the future of their own grandchildren. Make no mistake about it, the crimes that are being committed through the illicit trading of the Mukula tree will be paid for – it is just a matter of time. Our nation has become a nation of official gangsterism – a nation in which the privilege of power is used as a tool of oppression to further the greedy ambitions of an elite few whose god is their stomach, their loins and heir insatiable appetite for ill-gotten wealth.

The PF as a party is a good as dead. It exists only in so far as it is able to control the organs of the state. It is effectively on life support, clinging onto the machinery of government like a parasite sucking the oxygen out of a limping economy.

For too long now, the PF have been practicing what can only truly be described as pit-latrine politics. They have filled too many holes with their putrid waste and the smell within the organization has become unbearable. So unbearable in fact that the cadres themselves that once championed the cause of the party, have decided that enough is enough and began to call time on the rot.

The stain of corruption will always stain the conscience of those who practice it and no doubt God is calling time on this evil that has robbed our citizens not only of their livelihoods but indeed their very lives. How may people have to die before we can finally address the root causes of diseases such as cholera? How many young girls need to become prostitutes before we tackle the factors that lead children as young as 12 years old into commercial sex work?

Cholera can easily be prevented if we set the right standards for sanitation and provide access to clean safe water to every Zambian as well as a proper and durable sewerage system to carry waste from communities. 53 years after independence, it is shameful to think that people have to dig shallow latrines that flood in the rains and cause untold misery to residents of high-density locations. It is a shame to think that 53 years after independence our men and women work for wages as low as K400 a month as maids, gardeners, security guards. It is a shame that after 53 years of independence we still have no solution for dealing with the challenge of street vending. It is a crying shame that we have leaders today that brag and boast about corruption and being bootlickers. It is a shame that we have former leaders shouting from the rooftops about corruption once they have left power having enjoyed the very fruits of the corruption they now condemn.

Taking care of less than 17 million people in a country endowed with huge natural resources should not be hard with all the lessons of the past. Instead of sending the army into the community to terrorize and beat up citizens that have been shown no better way to make a living than to trade on the streets, we need to engage our military personnel to deliver civil works together with the communities that lack proper infrastructure. We need to get back to the food-for-work programmes that built drainages and roads and tie this in with skills development and training. We need to allocate government contracts to a wide spectrum of stakeholders within our communities and offer them training as part of the package. We need to do this with the help of civil society and the private sector in a transparent manner so as to avoid the corruption and lack off foresight that has characterized the awarding of public contracts.

We need to turn the cholera crisis not into and opportunity for a select number of protected presidential cronies to make even more illicit money for themselves but into an opportunity to make ordinary people’s lives whole again. Instead of wasting precious resources on unjustifiably expensive fire engines and ambulances which could have been purchased from less costly suppliers, we should have been putting our limited resources into areas that would directly benefit the people and lead to lasting positive change in our communities.

We cannot justify a national airline with our current governance set up when we routinely flout the law and hold no one connected to the president accountable. The reason Zambia Airway originally went under was not because it was could not make a profit; it was because there was no accountability for the manner in which it was being run. Nothing has changed since that time – in fact, things have only gotten worse. The lack of accountability is clear when you see the misapplication and misappropriation of funds as set out in the annual Auditor General’s report. What action is ever taken to discipline or follow up missing or misapplied funds? Contracts are entered into by the government in breach of he constitution and nothing is done. Article 210 of the Constitution makes it clear that equity held by the government in any state entity shall only be disposed of with the approval of two thirds of the members of parliament. How was the Top Star transaction legally concluded if this was not done? The Constitutional Court makes rulings that are conveniently ignored by the very government that passed the laws. When will the ministers pay back the money they have been ordered to? When will there be respect for the institutions that regulate law and order? How can a mere citizen threaten the head of the judicial arm of government and the Minister of Justice remains silent? The Head of State remains silent?

Let us rise up as one and demand an end to the mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect that have so deeply permeated our country’s national leadership structures. Let every sincere believer pray that God not only continues to expose the rot that has infected our country’s national governance structures but that those responsible for bringing misery and harm to our nation be made to account for their actions and their crimes.

Let me end with a direct call to President Lungu:

– Do not use the army to terrorize citizens; use them instead as community partners to build the water and sanitation infrastructure required to put an end to the numerous water-bourn diseases and to be an example to the youth in the community of discipline and duty

– Do not stay silent in the face of corruption but set up independent and impartial panels to investigate the corruption in your regime regarding roads; ambulances; fire trucks; medical supplies

– Do not condone continued plunder of our natural resources by pretending the illicit Mukula trade is under control but organize our urban and rural residents to plant trees and to protect them

– Do not allow current and future generations to become permanent beggars by borrowing recklessly and beyond our means but authorize a national debt audit and bring full transparency to the debt procurement process

– Finally, do not treat street vendors and marketeers like animals but see them as you would your very own children, providing an opportunity for them to achieve their God-given potential.