Celebrating independence in middle of theft of a country

Celebrating independence in middle of theft of a country

By Prof Michelo Hansungule

In all respects, Zambia’s independence is all but a farce. It is a contradiction in terms to say Zambia is independent. By definition, an independent state is one that with a particular focus on the most vulnerable segments of its population can provide for its people. In Zambia, they do not only provide for citizens, they steal what is due to the latter.
Cooperating partners have just frozen their assistance to protest the millions that have gone missing. Some senior officials at the Ministry of Health were dragged to court for the millions that instead of channeling into public programmes they pocketed. Community Development Minister was recently dismissed amid reports millions disappeared into thin air.

If you want to know this is nothing. Well connected have whispered about billions that have been looted since this government came to power.

Fortunately, the financial system globally has increasingly become transparent. Bold journalists who exposed grand corruption through Panama Papers, the World Bank and president Thabo Mbeki are among leading institutions and personalities that have written on illicit financial flows.

What this shows is that it isn’t possible anymore to run and hide anywhere in the world.

Zambians might appear stupid, in fact they are not. They know where their money goes and who is behind its disappearance? Usually, thieves fight in the kitchen. While on a criminal endeavour to steal, thieves are known to turn against each other and fight. Similarly, thieves while being thieves tend to expose each other. This is precisely what is happening. Some of the thieves are exposing each other. We know the millions looted by president Edgar Lungu’s senior party and government officials and members.

This is why I must dare praise one Zambian who lived a frugal life. With all his shortcomings, president Kenneth Kaunda stands above all our leaders in his frugality. Kaunda was a dictator though I like to say ‘soft dictator’ compared to crude dictators like Idi Amin ad others the continent has witnessed. When he could not stand his political opponents, he banned opposition parties and declared Zambia one party political system. Even when his best friend Mwalimu Kambarange Nyerere retired from power, Kaunda insisted on governing regardless.

During this period, may people were locked up on flimsy charges under the dreaded public emergency regulations among them his childhood friend Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe. Emergency power gave Kaunda unbridled power to curb growing dissent in the country and secure his power.

Under the one party political system, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) stood above all other organs and institutions. Parliament, the judiciary and all other state organs were declared subservient to the ruling and only party UNIP. Consequently, the economy belonged to UNIP. Markets were exclusively UNIP structures and so were bus stops, schools. The University of Zambia though defiantly remained independent of UNIP. UNZA was the only oasis of freedom in one party country.

But one thing you cannot take away from Kaunda is that he was and is not corrupt. In order to remove him from power, Movement for the Multiparty Democracy (MMD) upped the rhetoric that Kaunda stole 6 Billion US dollars from the public purse and it worked. Since he was removed from power, not one iota of evidence was led to substantiate this claim. We even know how on being removed from power, Kaunda slept outside after he was locked out by vengeful Frederick Chiluba his successor. Chiluba went on to lock Kaunda up accusing him of stealing a book from State House. This was after he (Chiluba) could not nail Kaunda to any other crime hence he turned to a book, just a book. All he wanted was to fix him and he did. Mwalimu Nyerere had to rush to Kaunda’s prison with food to persuade him to break his fast and eat.

Since he left power, Kaunda has been living an ordinary in fact simple man’s life. Remember some young Zambians had to come to his aid in the early days of his loss of power to house him? I have often wondered how a president for 27 years could have no house? These thieves in power today get houses not a house in a week or less of accessing power. This is the difference. Unless someone proves to me to the contrary, Kaunda was no thief. I understand he even has had no reliable transport. People have seen him on roadsides waiting while his vehicle is being repaired.

Of course I don’t know Kaunda’s bank account or his assets. But property being what is, it does not hide.

By now, we would know Kaunda’s commercial property in London, in Lusaka, in New York, as we know former Zairean dictator Joseph Mobutu’s. We know that of the 10 billion USD Nigerian strongman General Abacha stole while in office, president Olusugun Obasanjo recovered most of it only returning to the family 1,000,000 USD. I don’t agree with Obasanjo. Petty thieves are locked up for stealing a penny but Abacha abusing his illegal presidency is allowed to pocket the proceeds of his criminality, why?

If president Edgar Lungu and his PF party would be in power for 27 years, God forbid! Zambia had no systems when Kaunda became president. In 1964, Zambia only had four local graduates. There were no accountants, economists, auditors, doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, chemists, just nothing. Without institutions, Kaunda was he a thief, would literary have stolen the country. But Kaunda knew the difference between public property and his property. These thieves in power today appear not to know or rather not to care differentiating between public and private property.

Zambians wake up, your dignity is being stolen. Anything thieves steal, they steal your future. By stealing public money, they steal education, health care, jobs, agriculture, water, food, etc. Each time they indulge in corruption which now is a pass game in Zambia, they make it impossible for hospitals to operate, schools to run, to make farmers farm the land, etc. PF corruption is a crime against all of us.

I dedicate Zambia’s 54th independence anniversary to Dr. Kenneth Kaunda

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