*August 15, 2013*
*Edgar Chagwa Lungu then Minister of Home Affairs* suspends Copperbelt Police Commissioner Ms Mary Tembo for receiving a car as a gift from Grizzly Mining firm *without declaring interests*.
*According to Edgar Lungu ”Ms Tembo cannot continue carrying out her duties because of the alleged act of converting a motor vehicle or indeed any property donated by well-wishers to personal use without declaring that property to superiors contradicts the code of ethics for the public service which states that a public service employee shall not accept gifts, rewards, or hospitality or receive benefits of any kind from any person or organization which might compromise or reasonably be seen to compromise one’s person’s judgment or integrity,” said Lungu in a statement. The law is very clear and on this issue, Edgar Lungu was 100% right as the lady obtained an illegal gratuity from Grizzly Mining.*
Fast forward to 2018, Edgar Lungu now President of Zambia receives a gift from King Mswati of Swaziland in his capacity as number 1 citizen, fails to declare interests and now we have to hold him to a different standard. This is illegal and what he did is not normal as Dora was putting it.
There is a reason why public officials are forbidden from obtaining gifts and the laws are there in our statute books. This is because of the ethical issues and problems of “gifts” to public officials may arise because of the tacit or subtle influence or feelings of gratitude and appreciation that a public official may feel towards his or her benefactors that might “sway his decisions” and erode the official’s “sense of mission to the public” in favour of loyalty to “his private benefactors and patrons. The President is the number one public official and the intent of the person bribing a public official becomes pretty obvious when it reaches this stage.
It is clear when one considers the need for a strong and unambiguous statute on bribing of officials that Zambia is no different from the US or any other Civilised country and that is why these laws are there in our books.
Secondly, while there is almost a universal agreement that giving and receiving bribes and favours is morally reprehensible, we should not compound the problems by hiding behind the veil of ”it not being illegal”! We ought to remember that we do have clear laws such as the Parliamentary Code of Conduct that regulates this behaviour.
Article 4 of the Ministerial Code of Conduct under (Member not to acquire dishonestly or improperly any pecuniary advantage) says ”A Member shall be considered to have breached the code of conduct if he knowingly acquires any significant pecuniary advantage or assists in the acquisition of pecuniary advantage by another person, by (e) soliciting or accepting transfers of economic benefit, other than
(i) benefits of nominal value, including customary hospitality and token gifts;
(ii) gifts from close family members;
A plot in Swaziland is not of normal value and neither did it come from a family member.
Some foolish charlatan argued that the President is not a Member of Parliament and therefore cannot be subject to the Parliamentary Code of Conduct but I beg to differ. This is because article 62. (1) says ”There is established the Parliament of Zambia which consists of the President and the National Assembly” Furthermore article 266 under definitions says “ Parliament ” means the President and the National Assembly;
If you need further support that our laws are clear on substantial gifts such as a plot enough to house a mansion in Swaziland, article 211 cannot be clearer!
211. (1) The Minister responsible for finance shall, within three months after the end of each financial year, prepare and submit to the Auditor-General the financial report of the Republic in respect of the preceding financial year
(2) The Auditor-General shall, within two months of receipt of the financial report, examine the financial report and express an opinion on the report.
(4) The financial report shall include information on—
(c) gifts, donations and aid-in-kind received on behalf of the Republic in that financial year, their value and how they were disposed of;
We do not need to remind grown-ups of a common sense approach of clear sets some limits and distinctions of what constitutes a bribe or a gift! For example between a house in Swaziland as a gift versus a football T-shirt as a gift. God help us!