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 2009-08-28 05:43 pm Back to NEWS
Justice the Rupiah, Mchenga way

The complicity, the manipulation, the deceit that has taken place over the acquittal of Frederick Chiluba by magistrate Jones Chinyama and the consequent withdrawal of the state's appeal in this matter by Director of Public Prosecutions Chalwe Mchenga is clear for all to see. If anyone was in doubt where the country is, this episode tells it all. We are in trouble as a nation. Corrupt elements and outright criminals have taken over the country and are today instituting their own form of 'rule of law' and 'justice'. It is justice the Chinyama way; justice the Mchenga way; and it's justice the Rupiah Banda way. But what type of justice is this? We ask this question in light of what is said in the Bible, in Proverbs 18:5: "It is not right to favour the guilty and keep the innocent from receiving justice."

How can Regina Chiluba, Faustin Kabwe and Aaron Chungu be guilty and Chiluba innocent? This is the nonsense of what is going on today. People are so shameless that they try to hide or distort the obvious. This is the kind of 'justice' Rupiah and his minions would have us accept. It is clear they have decided that they will use state machinery to protect wrongdoing and injure anyone who stands in their way. This is a band of ruthless determined cohorts who will stop at nothing to achieve their criminal schemes. No one should think that anything is too unreasonable for these people to do. Shame won't stop them from doing wrong things and now it seems that not even the fear of the law will stop them. These are the kinds of people we have. This is what Rupiah and his minion Mchenga are presenting us with.

When are we going to have professionals who refuse to be abused by people like Rupiah? When are we going to have public servants who realise and respect the fact that for them obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to the president, to Rupiah? It is clear that Mchenga's obligations do not lie with the people but with Rupiah and those who control power. Mchenga is not a Director of Public Prosecutions for the people. He is a prosecutor for Rupiah. And at all times he is in the service of Rupiah and will serve his interests even if doing so makes him look stupid in the eyes of the public. Some people ruin themselves by their own stupidity and then blame others for it. Tomorrow, Mchenga will blame us for ruining his reputation when in truth he has ruined himself just to remain in good books, in the service of people who have decided to be on the side of wrong, on the side of crime and criminals. Today Mchenga cannot deny that he is on the side of crime; that he is abating crime and that he is defending and protecting criminals. How can a person who behaves that way call himself a public officer? Is this what it means to occupy a constitutional office and then use it to rape the people and their interests with impunity and be protected by the same people under the guise of the rule of law, of constitutionalism? The protection of the Director of Public Prosecutions given in our Constitution were not meant for what Mchenga is doing; it was not a licence to engage in wrongdoing with impunity. Mchenga's behaviour as we had stated yesterday stinks of corruption in every aspect of it. The powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions are meant to benefit the people, to protect public interests. In what way is Mchenga's behaviour protecting public interests? Why did he try to mislead the nation by suggesting that the Task Force and its prosecutors had no power to file an appeal without seeking fresh mandate from him? If Mchenga was acting in the public interest, his behaviour would have been different. There is no way he was going to justify his conduct.

But Mchenga's disregard for public interest hidden behind lofty declarations of constitutionalism is not peculiar to him. What Mchenga is doing is not uncommon in our country today. It is a cancer that pervades the whole of our public service system. A sense of entitlement to absolute power without accountability. This is the problem that Chiluba suffered from when he was president and continues to suffer from today. He believes that because he was once president, no one should question what he did in our name. This is why he can freely and shamelessly declare that he was a serial bribe taker without expecting any retribution or accountability; that he was a money launderer and still expects no one to take him to task over money laundering because he was president. And this mindset resonates very well with the ambitions and desires of Rupiah. To Rupiah being president means being above accountability. This is why although he swore to uphold our Constitution and protect the people's resources, Rupiah sees no contradiction in defending and championing the interests of elements like Chiluba who have stolen from the people. Why is Rupiah defending at every opportunity?

We know that politics is part of the equation. But is that all there is to this? When Chiluba started fighting for his third term, we all knew why he was so tenacious about it. Chiluba was ready to use his hired thugs, a band of the most discredited elements, pastors, chiefs, hooligans, opportunists to champion his cause in any way possible. Some of these elements were ready to maim, kill or disfigure those that opposed Chiluba's schemes. What we suspected then as being behind this dogged determination to pursue such an ill-conceived scheme has now become clear. Chiluba wanted to continue looting and protect what he had already looted. All his schemes somehow revolved around this issue. This is why he wanted the third term, failing which he was going to give us a handpicked successor. His schemes backfired on him when he brought Levy Mwanawasa and the last word has not yet been said about this matter. We ask the question again: why is Rupiah protecting Chiluba?

Could it be that he is doing wrong things for which he fears accountability? Should we take seriously what he said in Kasama that he has to work hard and ensure that he wins because if Michael Sata takes over, he will arrest him? Or should we attach more weight to what he said in Kabwe the other week: "Today it's him (Chiluba), tomorrow it's me. Tomorrow it's anyone of you." What he was saying here does not require interpretation. It is clear for anyone to understand. He simply meant today Chiluba is being prosecuted for corruption, tomorrow it could be me. What he forgets to deal with is whether or not Chiluba has done something wrong. As for his tomorrow, why should it be him tomorrow? Unless he, like Chiluba, does not recognise the difference between a personal account and a government account. Has he also started buying houses in Kabulonga or Woodlands with funds he cannot explain? If he has, then he has reason to worry about his tomorrow. But protecting Chiluba and perverting the course of justice does nothing to better his tomorrow. Anyway to Rupiah, corruption doesn't seem to matter much because according to him, no one is clean. We say this because the other Monday in Kabwe, this is exactly what he was saying as he tried to prepare the Zambian people to accept their scheme to acquit Chiluba: "It is not human to expect other human beings not to make mistakes…" According to Rupiah, a president stealing public funds and engaging in all sorts of corrupt activities is a mistake and very human. What kind of thinking is this?

With this kind of president, we should brace ourselves. Things are bound to get worse before they get better. But this won't happen on its own. Our people have to decide what they want for themselves. If they accept that their presidents and other public servants can steal and behave corruptly and be forgiven because it is a mistake, then they should not expect anything from our governments. Presidents will continue to plunder and abuse public resources and institutions without any regard for the law. In fact to them, doing so will still qualify to be within the ambit of 'their rule of law'.

We should all appreciate the help that international co-operating partners give to our nation. Their solidarity in defeating corruption and abuse of public resources is welcome. But as Mike Hammond, head of DFID in Zambia, said yesterday, the Zambian people will have to be the final judges on whether their government is fighting corruption or abating it. It is important for us to realise that we have to fight our own battles and defeat the demons of corruption and abuse of public resources that characterise our politics through the exercise of our democratic rights. Donor support is welcome but it is just that – support. It cannot and should not replace the need for us to cleanse our own society and manage the very limited resources of our people in the most efficient, effective and orderly manner.

To any observant person, Rupiah's performance at yesterday's launch of the National Anti-Corruption Policy was a continuation of his defence of Chiluba and his corruption. This is why on a day when he is supposed to be demonstrating his government's commitment to combating corruption, Rupiah finds it fit to talk about meaningless platitudes. He sees no contradiction in continuing the line that he started in Kabwe that Chiluba is innocent until proven guilty. Is Rupiah telling us that he is not privy to all the information that his government has about Chiluba's thieving ways? What happened yesterday at the so-called launch of the Anti- Corruption Policy and what has been happening in the last few days is a clear demonstration that Rupiah is in no mood to fight corruption. What he was actually launching was not the fight against corruption but the defence of corruption – he was launching corruption. Our people should wake up and demand their rights. If they don't, by the time Rupiah leaves office, they will be left with no credible institutions of the state whatsoever. Rupiah will leave them with a myriad of discredited public offices, empty coffers and deeper poverty and despair. These are the kinds of people we are dealing with.

As for Mchenga, his willingness to collaborate with other corrupt elements in government to protect plunderers is not starting today. He has a well known record for being well disposed towards them. From the very beginning, Mchenga has been their ally. And this culminated in his criminal protection of Kashiwa Bulaya. So what Mchenga is doing today is not new; he has done it before and we are confident he will do it again – this is him, that's what he stands for and that's what he believes in. To Mchenga, this is justice and he is used to getting away with this sort of behaviour. What a shame! And this shame is not only to Mchenga alone but to the entire legal fraternity and our whole judicial process. Again, what a shame!

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