President Banda on Corruption: Myths and Truths

FOOD-SUMMIT/By Charles Mwaba-

Your No Counts,” is a phrase coined for the 2009 World Anti-Corruption theme ahead of the December 9 Commemoration Day.

Activities around the world have been organized in different forms – but Zambia’s week has not been short of controversy. It’s a golden opportunity for the opposition to bash President Banda’s leadership – notwithstanding the unprecedented efforts he has put in place to fight corruption.

The opposition leaders and its ally newspaper, The Post, have used the events to cast doubt on the leadership of President Rupiah Bwezani Banda, whom they accuse of having a softly-softly approach to the fight against corruption.

Even though President Banda – for the fight time – dedicated a speech aired on both radio and television on December 2, 2009, to outline his Government’s agenda towards the fight against corruption, his critics are not relenting.

They did, at least for the first time, acknowledge President Banda’s speech to have been very eloquent on issues of corruption.

But short of praising the President, the opposition and The Post, in the usual fashion, said the speech was written by speech-writers and the President merely read it.

What cheek? Really, do president’s read things they do not approve? Maybe the leaders of the opposition do, especially that some don’t have a credible or known education background.

But those who have interacted or worked with President Banda will testify that he is an ardent reader and nothing passes his watchful eye without comment or scribbles.

President Banda has done more in one-year in terms of institutionalizing the fight against corruption than any other leader. It is under President Banda that the long-awaited National Anti-Corruption Policy was launched on 27th August which places the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) at the epicenter of the fight against corruption.

Even the donor community has lauded President Banda and his Government for the job well down so far – only emphasizing on the need to begin implementation of the issues contained in the policy.

Previously, the fight against corruption was mumble-jumbled without any framework. This is a score to be given to President Banda and his Government.

Even Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Rueben Lifuka rightly pointed out on December 6, 2009 on ZNBC that President Banda has continued with the fight against corruption albeit in a different approach from his predecessor late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa.

At the moment, Zambia – under the leadership of President Banda – has ratified the African Union Convention on the Prevention and Combating Corruption and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Corruption, which completely shows the commitment of Government towards the eradication of corruption.

It must be noted that it is not mere words that make the fight against corruption effective, but the deeds such as the ratification and further domestication of these international instruments.

President Banda, on December 2, 2009, made this pledge during his address to the nation:

“My Government will accelerate the strengthening of the law on the prevention and combating of corruption in Zambia and the domestication of international protocols and conventions on corruption, so that the fight against corruption becomes meaningful and meets the public’s expectations.”

This is a commitment at the high level!

Some of the critics of President Banda have tried to use the disbanding of the Task Force on Corruption as a sign that his Government tolerates corruption unlike his predecessor.

This cant is true, especially that even President Mwanawasa who formed the Task Force began doubting its efficacy in his last days following the huge expenditure incurred compared to the recoveries.

President Banda, through cabinet endorsement, has fused the operations of the Task Force into the ACC, which has been made the lead institution in the fight against corruption.

This decision will help Government cut costs drastically by using ACC State Prosecutors as opposed to hiring expensive private lawyers who have so far gobbled over US$18 million through legal bills.

In addition, using State Prosecutors in the ACC will help build capacity within the institution, which is more sustainable unlike hiring expensive private prosecutors.

Imagine if this money was pumped into ACC! The Taskforce was only established in Lusaka while the ACC has offices in almost all the provincial towns

In terms of resources, President Banda in June, during his Press Conference at State House, directed the treasury to increase funding to the ACC and the Office of the Auditor-General in order to enhance of their capacity.

This has been done and the budget line for the two institutions has gone up in the 2010 National Budget.

It is no wonder that even donors who had withheld funding to the Ministry of Health have resumed following their own independent assessment of President Banda’s commitment to the fight against corruption.

Off course, the fight against corruption has not been short of challenges. President Banda rightly admitted in last week’s address when he stated that there was need to take further bold measures to improve the performance so far. The President identified the following measures that need urgent attention:

  • Strengthening the law on Asset Declaration
  • Strengthening the law on Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime and
  • Enhancing Whistleblower Protection

Notwithstanding the achievements by President Banda in the fight against corruption, his opponents have singled out the recent acquittal of former President Frederick Chiluba and the sale of the state-owned ZAMTEL as examples of his softly-softly approach to corruption issues.

But how can one blame President Banda for the acquittal of Dr.  Chiluba when the private prosecutors failed to prove in court that the former Head of State stole US$500,000?

In fact, the evidence on record, which was never rebutted, showed that ZAMTROP account had a total of US$8 million of private funds.

Did they expect the President to order the Magistrate Court to convict Dr Chiluba even in the face of defective evidence from the prosecution?

Nay, when it suits them, they accuse the Judiciary of being compromised by the President but when they win the case – as was the case of Chansa Kabwela – they celebrate and forget it is the same Judiciary which has determined the case.

Overall, President Banda’s record on the fight against corruption has been very encouraging if one looks at it from an independent and non-biased position.

But not when you are in the opposition!

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