Sean Tembo
Sean Tembo


By Sean Tembo – PeP President

1. When Hakainde Hichilema won the presidential election last August, there was total euphoria among his supporters. However, for me l decided to utilize the opportunity of the celebrations to warn him of the potential pitfalls of his impending presidency, much to the chagrin of his supporters. At that particular time, most Zambians did not want to hear about what could go wrong with an HH presidency, they wanted to only hear about what will go right. And so they labeled me a prophet of doom, a bitter man, a jealous man. But l was undeterred in my counsel to then President-elect Hichilema, because l saw it as my duty, responsibility and obligation. However, other people have a talent of couching their counsel in layers of diplomacy, but unfortunately God did not bless me with any such a talent, and so l just often say it as it is. The naked truth.

2. The first piece of advice that l extended to then President-elect Hichilema was on how to turnaround our ailing economy, reduce the cost of living and potentially create jobs. I told the President that it is better to be inward looking rather than outward looking. That his focus should be on three things; firstly creating a conducive environment for Zambian businesses to thrive by reducing barriers to trade such as high costs of borrowing, unreasonable regulatory burdens, etcetera. Secondly, that he needs to seal revenue leakages in tax as well as non-tax revenue so as to boost domestic revenue mobilization which he would then use to meet our debt service obligations. Thirdly that he needs to avoid an expansionary budget until such a time that the economy stabilizes. That you cannot go on a spending spree if you don’t have the money.

3. The second piece of unsolicited advice which l extended to then President-elect Hakainde Hichilema was on the impending fight against corruption which he would obviously subsequently launch against the outgoing regime. I advised the President that since the outgoing PF regime also happens to be the main opposition political party now, there will be a thin line in the eyes of the observing public between a genuine corruption fight and retribution and vengeance aimed at weakening the main opposition political party so as to elevate himself from President to King. I further advised the then President-elect that in order for his impending corruption fight to have credibility, he needs to do two things; firstly ensure that he does not rush to arrest people without evidence and secondly that people who are arrested are prosecuted on a timely basis so that they can be acquitted or convicted.

4. With regard to my first piece of advice on the economy, of course it is common knowledge now that the President did not only disregard it, but proceeded to do the exact opposite. Instead of being inward-looking and focusing on creating a conducive local business environment as well as sealing revenue leakages, the President decided to be outward looking and proceeded to solicit for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout loan. When l told the President that IMF conditionalities would make the lives of our people unbearable, him and his supporters including quasi economists like Chibamba Kanyama vehemently argued that the IMF of the 1990s is not the IMF of now. That the Fund had ceased to impose harsh conditionalities such as removal of subsidies and austerity measures. That l have nothing to worry about. Of course what followed is the largest fuel increment and impending increment in electricity tariffs. Energy being a key production input, the subsequent trickle down increase in the cost of living has been unbearable for most Zambians.

5. Additionally, instead of creating a conducive local business environment by reducing the cost of borrowing and increasing liquidity, Bally has done the exact opposite. He has increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) thereby increasing the cost of borrowing and has also increased the amount of Government domestic borrowing (treasury bills and government bonds) by more than 40 percent over the past 7 months, thereby crowding out the private sector as banks, pension funds and insurance companies prefer to lend to government than to an SME. He has also halted payments to local suppliers and contractors, under the guise that he is doing an audit, thereby wiping out liquidity in the economy and causing huge job losses. Instead of sealing revenue leakages in tax and non-tax revenue, he has decided legitimize tax revenue leakages in the mining sector by extending a de facto tax holiday, such that despite copper prices being at an all-time high at the moment, we as a country have nothing much to show for it.

6. With regard to the second piece of advice which l extended to then President-elect Hakainde Hichilema, on treading carefully with regard to the fight against corruption as well as any other alleged crimes committed by the previous regime, it is evident that the President and his Government have no regard for finer issues such as credibility. They have gone on a spree to arrest all vocal members and supporters of the previous regime even when the charges that these individuals are slapped with do not make sense. For instance, how can Mumbi Phiri and Shebby Chilekwa both be charged with murder when the murder in question involved a firearm and the victim is said to have only been shot once? Did they both put their fingers on the trigger and pull at once? The most that one of them can be charged with is perhaps accessory or conspiracy. But these lesser charges are bailable and it is clear that the ploy is to keep these individuals behind bars as much as possible even if the State will eventually amend the charge sheet. That is not justice. That is vengeance and retribution.

7. And then we have this new infestation of the charge of being in possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. When you look at section 71 of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act No. 19 of 2010, you can clearly see that this law contravenes the Constitution. Specifically, when you look at sub-section (2) which says that it is not necessary to prove that a crime took place for you to be convicted of the charge of being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime. There just has to be suspicion, that’s all. Additionally, the law does not define what constitutes legitimate suspicion. It just says suspicion. So all the State has to do is suspect, and then the burden is on you the accused to prove your innocence! Clearly, this section of the Act also contravenes the constitutional presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

8. But instead of the new dawn administration amending this section of the Act so as to make our laws fair and equitable, they are instead utilizing it to try and exterminate their political opponents. Suffice to mention that this law was actually enacted by the MMD regime in 2010. This law was in place when the PF were in power, and we all know that the PF was quite a vengeful regime as well, but they did not abuse this law to the extent that President Hichilema and his administration are abusing it today. Take for instance the recent charge laid against PF Acting President Given Lubinda under the same section 71(1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act No.19 of 2010. Given Lubinda is being charged for having reasonably small amounts of $100,000, $50,000 and a house in Kingsland. Suffice to mention that Lubinda has been in gainful employment as an MP for Kabwata for the past 20 years, during which time he obtained 4 gratuity payments from the National Assembly. Lubinda has also been a Cabinet Minister for the past 10 years during which time he earned various amounts of per diems during his many travels out of the country. Additionally, Lubinda was an accomplished businessman even before he became an MP in 2001. Are we saying that it is unusual for such a person to have $100,000 in their bank account? Not under their bed, but in a bank account? How many new dawn ministers have houses in Kingsland City? If Lubinda had $20 million in his bank account, then even my eye brows would be raised. But $100,000? Come on.

9. If the previous regime wanted to abuse section 71(1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act, President Hakainde Hichilema would have been the first target when he was in opposition because nobody understands how he accumulated his wealth. Between the two main economic activities which President Hichilema undertook; which is privatization and cattle rearing, it is unlikely that cattle rearing can explain the source of his wealth. I mean, how many other people keep cattle and how many have so far become filthy rich out of it? My point here is that the previous regime had a stronger basis to apply section 71(1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act on Mr Hichilema but they chose not to. Hopefully because they knew that it was a bad law. Of course the PF should also take the blame for not making any attempts to amend this law.

10. My submission is that if President Hakainde Hichilema’s corruption fight is going to earn credibility in the eyes of right thinking members of the public, it needs to be premised on more than a loophole in the law. If the previous regime stole money, we want them to be brought to book. Isn’t it a wonder that almost everyone in the previous regime who has so far been charged, has been charged under the loophole of section 71(1)? Malanji, Bowman, Max and now Lubinda? They fail to prove any crime committed, but they want to take away people’s property on the basis that they are proceeds of crime? Tell us what that crime is first then prove that crime in court and then it will be morally right to take away people’s property. If a cattle farmer was able to build a multi-million dollar mansion and no one took it away from him, then why do you want to take away a $260,000 house in Kingsland City which is owned by a 20 year Member of Parliament and a 10 year Cabinet Minister? President Hichilema must stop this vengeance and retribution immediately. I for one will support any genuine fight against corruption by the new dawn administration. But what l will not do is to allow HH and his Government to continuously exploit a weakness in the law to try and decimate and destroy the opposition so as to elevate himself from President to King.

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SET 22.03.2022


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