ABOUT EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION BY THE UPND GOVERNMENT: AN ANSWER ON BEHALF OF THE SWEDISH AMBASSADOR
By Sean Tembo – PeP President
So the other day the Minister of Information and Media; Hon. Cornelius Mweetwa challenged the Swedish Ambassador to Zambia to provide evidence of corruption to back up the Ambassador’s earlier statement that corruption was high under the UPND administration. Since the Ambassador may not wish to engage in a protracted exchange of words with Government due to the delicate nature of his position, we have decided to step in and assist the Ambassador in providing evidence of grand corruption perpetrated by the UPND Government so far, since for us we do not mind engaging in a protracted exchange of words with Government, by virtue of our position. Here are ten examples of the UPND Government’s grand corruption that quickly come to mind:
1. Award of Fertilizer Tenders for 2022/23 and 2023/24 Farming Seasons: The fertilizer contracts for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 farming seasons were upwards of US$340 million and $410 million respectively, in total value. Both of these tenders were initially evaluated by Government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and a list of companies recommended for award was published. However, in unclear circumstances, Government decided to cancel the tenders before award. After a series of cancellations and re-tenders, Government eventually awarded these fertilizer contracts to companies which are directly or indirectly connected to UPND Government officials, through a process known as selective bidding. The funny thing about this entire arrangement is that the majority of the companies that were awarded these contracts did not even submit a tender in the first place. Now tell me; how does a company that did not submit a tender win a tender? Not just any tender, but a tender worth hundreds of millions of Dollars?
2. Consent Judgements Between Government and UPND Members and Supporters: So far, the UPND Government has paid approximately K121 million through consent judgements to it’s officials, members and supporters. There is no assessment of damages that is undertaken by any registrar of any court to determine the the appropriateness or accuracy of the money that is paid out, it is just paid out by the Attorney General as soon as he receives a claim. But is this corruption by itself? The answer is no. So then what makes it corruption? To answer myself, what makes these consent judgements corruption is the fact that they are selective and only granted to UPND officials, members and supporters, and not any other ordinary member of society. There is no sound basis on which Government issues these consent judgements and gives away these hundreds of millions of Kwacha other than affiliation to the ruling UPND party. One minute a UPND Minister is awarded K450,000 cash for merely having a firearm pointed at him as he refused to obey the lawful orders of a police officer, and the next minute Government is refusing to compensate Dr. Christopher Zumani Zimba for incarcerating him in prison in a case which the High Court described as “baseless” in it’s judgement acquitting Dr. Zimba. If this is not evidence of grand corruption by the UPND Government, then what is? This is a clear case of using the position to which the Zambian people elected you to enrich yourselves and your political grouping at the expense of the wider Zambian population. That is the textbook definition of corruption.
3. Relinquishing of Government’s 20 Percent Equity Stake in First Quantum Minerals: The decision by the UPND Government in 2022 to give away the country’s 20 Percent stake in First Quantum Minerals in exchange for a small sum in royalties per year is nothing other than criminal. It is like someone comes to your house and says give me your vehicle and in return l will be paying you K1,000 every year. Obviously, your first question will be; are you talking about my vehicle or my wheelbarrow? That is exactly what the UPND Government did at FQM, and we cannot think of any other reason that drove Government officials to make such an unpatriotic decision other than corruption.
4. Award of Mining Licenses to Multiple UPND Members and Supporters at Time When Issuing of Mining Licenses was Suspended to the Public: For close to a year, the UPND Government suspended the issuing of mining and exploration licenses. According to President Hakainde Hichilema, this was necessary in order to “clean up” the system. However, during the time that the issue of mining Licenses was officially suspended, we came to learn that several licenses were issued to UPND officials, members and supporters including to a nephew to our First Lady and also to a UPND Minister who was recently captured on a social media video receiving cash from a Chinese businessman as he sold his mining exploration license. Country men and women, the minerals that exist in this country belong to all citizens who must be given a fair and equitable chance to mine them. The conduct by the UPND Government to suspend the issuing of mining and exploration licenses but at the same time continue to issue these licenses to their officials, members and supporters behind closed doors which they then proceed to resale and make bundles and bundles of cash as evidenced in a recent video, is nothing other than grand corruption.
5. Airport Gold Scandal: When you look at the local players that were involved in the airport Gold Scandal and their proximity to the Presidency, you will realize that the transaction was authorized at the highest levels of Government. That particular scandal gave us a glimpse of the extent to which the UPND Government is rotten with corruption.
6. Giving of Unsolicited Tax Holidays and Other Concessions to the Mines: the decision by the UPND Government in 2021 to give away billions of Kwacha in tax holidays to mining companies as well as to make mineral royalty tax a tax-deductible expense for purposes of income tax computation, which resulted in the loss of additional billions of Kwacha in tax revenue, could not have been driven by a lack of patriotism alone. There had to be a personal financial motive by selected Government officials. There had to be grand corruption on the part of the UPND Government.
7. Lusaka – Ndola Dual Carriage Way Project: The US$650 million contract awarded by Government to Macro Ocean Investments Limited to construct the Lusaka – Ndola Dual Carriage Way is the epitome of corruption. Under the deal, Macro Ocean will be responsible for construction of the road and it’s management in terms of collection of tollgate fees for 25 years. And yet, Micro Ocean will borrow the entire amount of money needed for construction from NAPSA and Workman’s Compensation Fund, both of which are Government parastals. So since the money is coming from Government parastals, then why didn’t we just let Macro Ocean only construct the road, we pay them and the road is handed over to Government? Why did we have to allow Macro Ocean to collect toll fees for 25 years as if they are using their own money? There is no other possible explanation other than the fact that this is grand corruption. Oh, and here is another red flag, under the contract, the contractor started collecting toll fees from the date of signature of the contract, even before the road is constructed !!!
8. Refusal to Declare Assets by President Hakainde Hichilema: President Hakainde Hichilema has been ducking and diving around the issue of his declaration of assets. If the President was transparent and he was running a transparent Government, he would not have hesitated to declare his assets, whether or not the law compelled him to do so. The fact that the President has vehemently fought the issue of his declaration of assets speaks volumes about his possible accumulation of unexplained wealth ever since he ascended to the office of President of the Republic of Zambia. This means when we talk about grand corruption by the UPND Government, we are not only talking about corruption perpetrated by a few selfish Ministers, some of whom are caught on video with bundles of cash, we are talking about institutionalized corruption that is initiated, facilitated and protected by the highest office in the land.
9. Large Scale Confiscation of Assets Belonging to Perceived Opposition Sympathizers Without Due Process of the Law: When you talk about corruption, you are not only talking about the accumulation of ilicit wealth but also the illegal and unscrupulous use of power. Over the past 2 years or so that they have been in office, the UPND Government has systematically confiscated assets belonging to opposition leaders, members and supporters under the guise of fighting corruption, but whose main objective is to financially cripple the opposition so that no one can challenge their institutionalized corruption. Overnight, people’s money is taken away from their bank accounts, their businesses shut down, vehicles and houses confiscated, all without any court conviction or semblance of due process. While this happens, some naive citizens cheer on, oblivious to the adverse long-term effects that these actions will have on democracy and multi-partism in Zambia.
10. Unexplained Gap Between Quantity of Fertilizer Procured and Paid For by Government and Quantity of Fertilizer Actually Distributed to Farmers: Over the past three farming seasons, less than 30 percent of the fertilizer which Government procures and pays for, actually reaches farmers. Although part of this gap can be attributed to individualized pilferage of the commodity along the supply-chain, as evidenced by the recent case where a prominent fertilizer supplier was caught red-handed repackaging FISP fertilizer, there are strong indications that this theft is institutionalized from the highest level of Government, and is two-fold. The first aspect involves Government paying suppliers for fertilizer which Government is fully aware that it has not been delivered. The second aspect involves Government officials diverting FISP fertilizer from intended beneficiaries, repackaging it and selling it on the open market. Oh, by the way, no one has so far been arrested in the recent scam that was captured on video where a prominent fertilizer supplier was repacking FISP fertilizer. The Police however issued a statement warning the public not to circulate the video as it might compromise investigations. Really?
Anyway, the Future is SET