Reuben Lifuka

By Kombe Mataka

THE fight against corruption will turn into a charade if UPND does not put its house in order, says Reuben Lifuka.

Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV’s COSTA programme on Sunday night, Lifuka said those that have been investigated or arrested on suspicion of corruption were calling it bluff because of the manner in which the cases were being handled.

“I have always said that accountability should not be Jettisoned on account of building unity. We can still build unity while holding our leaders accountable. Integrity should not be sacrificed simply because you want to create that unity,” Lifuka, a former Transparency International Zambia president, said. “Therefore, if any of our former leaders, any of the former leaders including the former president (Edgar) Lungu are found wanting, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that they have been found wanting all in the name of trying to build unity. I think it will be extremely wrong for the UPND to do that because then, the confidence in the anti-corruption fight will be totally eroded. I think it will turn into a charade if the UPND does not put its house in order. And partly the reason why we have seen what I think is impunity for those that have been alleged to have been in corruption is because of the time it has taken for the UPND to get its act together.”

Lifuka said the long time it was taking for the joint investigative wings to investigate and take cases to court was giving latitude to the suspects to call the whole process a bluff.

“The long time the ACC and joint investigation teams was taking to bring cases to court is just making those that may have done something wrong to become very bold and speak out,” he noted. “I mean let’s face it, I have been in this business for 20 years. The corrupt fight back. The corrupt will not take everything lying low. In this ideal of being methodical they are providing the latitude for those that have genuinely done something wrong to the country to become bold and they bluff. And this is where they (UPND) need to recalibrate their fight against corruption. Rethink their strategy, their strategies.”

Lifuka said the corruption fight must not only be based on the past but present cases also.

“We should also be talking about the corruption that is happening now. If I go back to the (Levy) Mwanawasa administration from 2001 up until 2008, one of the criticisms that president Mwanawasa faced was the fact that the fight against corruption was historical in nature. It was backward, it was not forward looking. The UPND have adopted a similar approach dealing with all the historical cases,” he observed.

“They should be looking at building the right systems in the public service which are allowing for loopholes for corruption including among serving ministers. In this quest to be methodical, I think the UPND have missed the plot.”

Lifuka warned that the UPND were taking long to settle after winning the elections.

“I remember at the first public (Phoenix) Radio interview, the President [Hakainde Hichilema] had, he was asked a question whether by being methodical and the time it was taking to put things in place by the UPND had allowed for paper trail to go missing or to grow cold. The President said ‘yes it is possible we will lose some evidence because people may just destroy evidence’. But I think this was taken lightly. This is where the problem lies,” he said.

“Again I go back to the fact that it is a democratic transition. You have new people coming in. It is not a continuation. You are coming in as new people to take over from the system that has systemic corruption. Let us face it, the government of PF had become entrenched in corruption and that is why you can hear what is coming from PAC (Public Accounts Committee). Now you come in as a new government, you haven’t taken time to understand what was happening. Your transition is much longer than six, seven months. Then people who are in the system and know what was happening and would probably be caught up with any investigations, will not wait, sit back and wait for you to come and find the trail which will point a smoking gun at them. They will do something about the evidence.”

Lifuka observed that it seemed the UPND was more prepared to win the August 2021 elections, than the governance of the country.

“What they must understand is if it takes them one year to transition (from being in the opposition to the ruling party), they will only have three years in government. In the fifth year parliament will be dissolved by May, so they really don’t have enough time,” he warned.

And Lifuka said the UPND needs a comprehensive strategy for the fight against corruption.

He said in one breath the UPND was stating that it would investigate and prosecute cases of corruption while in another, it was calling for those that have looted state coffers or done harm to the country to surrender and apologise.

And Lifuka said former president Lungu was entitled to make statements.

“Former president Lungu is entitled to make a statement like any other person. I think we shouldn’t crucify him for coming out and speaking out. It is his constitutional right. But when we delve into what he said when he talked about hypocrisy, I think the hypocrisy starts with himself. The calls for fighting corruption have not started today. He himself when he was president came out openly and said quite a number of his ministers were receiving cash deposits in their accounts which they could not explain and that there was corruption,” recalled Lifuka.

“Later on, he changed and when people pushed him to take action on his ministers beyond firing [Chishimba] Kambwili, he never came to the party but instead he said ‘give me evidence’. So if you want to talk hypocrisy, that was hypocrisy.”


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