By Mwamba Peni II
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE LEVY MWANAWASA’S FIGHT ON CORRUPTION AS A YOUNG SEMINARIAN.
BY MWAMBA PENI
When the fight against corruption started in 2002 under the leadership of President Mwanawasa, I was a young seminarian doing my pastoral counselling experience at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH). I met most of those facing corruption charges, coincidentally most of them were Catholics and members of the famous St. Ignatius Parish. I used to take the Eucharist to them, mostly in the ICU VIP section where they were put in isolation chained to their hospital beds with an armed officer nearby.
I spoke to most former Government officials and private citizens who were facing corruption charges. I came to know their families and relatives. I saw the pain and anguish in the eyes. I could not help but sympathise with them. All the friends, tenderpreneurs and some relatives had run away. Only those relatives who used to come and ask for support even at the hospital stuck with them. “Bro. Peni, can you imagine this man is saying I have not paid for his kids school fees and he has come to ask for money when I am in the hospital,” someone complained to me.
I witnessed the death of the former spy chief’s wife. She must have been 36 if I am not mistaken. XF Chungu was only allowed to attend the burial and was taken back to prison afterwards. He was facing an offence, motor vehicle theft, which had no provision at that time for a bail. Rumour has it that the MMD government then came up with it to fix someone who had crossed paths with President Chiluba. Michael Sata spent 49 days in jail over the same offence until he was acquitted. Robert Simeza and Edgar Lungu were some of the lawyers I remember who represented him.
One day, I was in the head nurse’s office in the ICU section. A call from State House came through. There was an officer on the line who wanted to find out the blood pressure level of a particular ex government official who was facing a motor vehicle theft case. The nurse refused to share any information on the patient. In 20 minutes time, the officers were at UTH and attempted yo force a discharge of this patient facing criminal charges. The patience held my hand as tears were falling down his chicks. “Brother, I can’t go back to Chimbokaila. I am not yet well.” Moved by his pain and anguish, I charged towards the officers and said “I am Mwamba Peni, a Catholic seminarian working here. I am here to defend the rights of this man and you will have to kill me if you want to take him to Chimbokaila in this state. I will fight you tooth and nail if you dare me.” The officers left.
As a human being, I could not help at times but remember how arrogant this man was on national television as a senior government official in comparison to how jail life had humbled him. It was all vanities I would say to myself. Not worthy the pain and embarrassment you are subjected to afterwards.
With time, Hon. Valentine Kayope heard about my affinity towards the Chiluba boys. He then made arrangements to pick me up at the formation house to take me to pray for Dr. Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba who was then the immediate past President of the Republic of Zambia. We went to Serval road in Kabulonga and found him with his wife Regina. We went into a private room just the two of us and shared things I will go with to my grave. After which we joined the rest of the group and I prayed for the former President and his family.
So today when you speak to senior officials and they respond to you in an arrogant way, I just say I have watched this movie way before I even thought I would work in the President’s office of this land. I joined the seminary as a teenager and the first thing I encountered was corruption charges against people I used to see on television or read in newspapers. Some were my father’s age while others were older but were time and again breaking down before me. I saw them cry before me several times. I was young at the time and that was the first assignment life handled me.
My classmates such as Kalumba Chunda, Mwape Kaiche, Chalembwa Kasapo, Fr. Ignatius Nawa Max Siyuni, Michael Mashekwa, Fr. Chibwe Tembo, Ephraim Chisumbe, Fr. Dean Mbuzi, Milimo Hamomba and Kayula Chileshe Mutale may also share their experiences.
To those of you who think when someone corrects you they are jealous or bitter, wait for your time to come. We shall remind you when escorting you to court.