Dr. Fred M'membe


According to the News Diggers newspaper, Attorney General Mulilo Kabesha, previously a losing UPND parliamentary candidate for Kabwe Central constituency, has agreed to pay Mr Hakainde Hichilema’s treason co-accused K6.4 million each.

The paper reports that “FIVE UPND supporters have entered into a consent judgement with the State for them to be paid K6,400,000 each as full and final settlement in a matter in which they are seeking damages for unlawful prosecution.

According to a consent order, which is yet to be endorsed by the court, the parties have also agreed that the Attorney General shall pay the sum of K1,000,000 as costs. The five UPND members include Hamusonde Hamaleka, Pretorius Haloba, Wallace Chakawa, Laston Mulilanduba and Muleya Hachinda.

“By consent of the parties through their respective advocates, it is hereby ordered as follows: That the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth plaintiffs will receive a payment of K6,400,000.00 each, as full and final settlement of …”

This is nothing but organised looting of public resources. Yes, the accused spent four months in prison on a bogus but non-bailable treason charge before they were released on a nolle.

Mumbi Phiri spent a year in prison on a bogus but non-bailable murder charge before she was released on a nolle. Would the Attorney General easily agree to pay Mumbi Phiri even a fraction of the K6.4m amount if she sued the State today?

In October 2022, I raised an alarm at this trend of paying UPND members huge sums of taxpayers’ money without the Attorney General putting up a defence. Below is the article l wrote on this page nearly a year ago and which was subsequently published by Lusaka Times on October 10, 2022. It is unchanged and perhaps is more relevant now than it was at the time of its publication.


By Fred M’membe, President of the Socialist Party

In March 2022, 15 UPND cadres who were accused of burning Lusaka’s City Market took the State to court demanding K8 million in compensation for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In May, a UPND cadre who was accused of attempting to assassinate former President Lungu sued the State demanding compensation for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution amounting to K5 million.

In August this year, four UPND cadres sued the State in the Lusaka High Court seeking damages for false imprisonment under the PF on a charge of possession of offensive materials and weapons. This month, October, 22 UPND members, who were arrested for unlawful assembly in April last year, have sued the State in the Lusaka High Court demanding special damages for unlawful detention.

There are other suits too numerous to mention but the ending has usually been the same: consent judgements between the suing parties and the Attorney General followed by the payment of huge sums of money from the treasury to those who had sued.

Why is Attorney General Mulilo Kabesha, who himself has known ties to the UPND, eager to award huge monetary damages through consent judgements to UPND members in all cases where such members, represented by UPND-aligned lawyers, have sued the state for malicious imprisonment unlawful detention or wrongful prosecution that occurred under the PF? Isn’t this a form of organised looting of state resources? What is preventing the Attorney General from defending the public interest by way of allowing these cases to proceed to trial where the petitioners’ claims can be put to the test or challenged? How does the public even know with certainty that these claimants exist and that they are not hired people masquerading as UPND cadres who are being used to reward party cadres or mobilise financial resources for the party?

Where is the new dawn they keep singing about? How different is this organised banditry from what the PF did with Lewis Mosho over the Shoprite case? Those who have followed these cases may note that so many have been filed, but usually only one at a time. A new one is only started after the existing case has been disposed of via a consent order. To our knowledge, not a single one of these cases has ever gone to trial. Why? Is the UPND indirectly fundraising for the party or “empowering” its cadres using state resources?

There is a wider lesson here: the cost of appointing party loyalists to key government positions, the same thing that happened under the PF. The only difference is that the PF were more transparent about this practice. The UPND is doing the same but make it appear like they are hiring non-partisan professionals who are apolitical or not UPND-aligned. This is merely a smokescreen. Like the PS without portfolio Patrick Mucheleka at the Cabinet Office, Levy Ngoma, the Special Assitant to the President for Political Affairs, holds a position in the UPND leadership. How can these civil servants be expected to rise above their party interests in cases where these are threatened? Is it surprising that Levy, alongside the Home Affairs PS Josephs Akafumba, was implicated in a telephone scandal in a matter that involved the interests of the UPND as a party and which had nothing to do with the public interest?

And even when the public complained about Levy’s conduct and abuse of state resources to advance the interests of the UPND, nothing happened to him because he was, as he said in the leaked audio, acting in furtherance of the interests of the ruling party and on the instructions of his principal. (And by the way, how far have the police gone with the investigations into the leaked audio scandal? It has been nearly ten months now! Or is the Inspector General of Police waiting for members of the public to share their findings on the case before Mr Lemmy Kajoba can claim credit and praise himself?)

The issue we raise of appointing party functionaries to important government positions that require independent-minded professionals is not a small matter. It is an important issue that is likely to assume even greater significance when appointments to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the leadership of both the civil service and the Electoral Commission of Zambia are made. Those in doubt that party functionaries will likely be appointed to these positions should wait for the long-delayed but the imminent announcement of the new DPP, ECZ CEO, ECZ chairperson and deputy chairperson and Secretary to Cabinet.

When one looks at positions such as Special Assistant to the President for Legal Affairs, Minister of Justice, Attorney General, Solicitor General, ACC Director General and even Speaker of the National Assembly, one will realise that these public positions are all filled with individuals who are linked to the UPND, and possibly members. How can these be expected to retain fair or independent judgement and defend the public interest in matters that involve or affect UPND members? Can these officials really rise above their possible partisan interest and allegiance to the UPND since its potential loss of power would denote their own removal from these positions?

One just has to listen to the Minister of Justice whenever he speaks on issues of public interest that affect his party. He sounds like a UPND Secretary General! Can the current ACC Director General sanction the investigation of Maurice Jangulo’s company in relation to the procurement of fertiliser when Maurice has strong ties to the appointing authority, with whom the DG has very close client-patron ties stemming from their time in opposition? Is it any wonder that the ACC has never found any single case of corruption in this government? We know of the corruption involving some of the presidential aides at State House. If the ACC does not know, then they are simply not up to the challenge. If they know, how come they have not summoned those involved for interrogation? The only time the ACC should be taken seriously is when they start to touch members of the inner circle of this government. Look at the contradictions coming from the Attorney General’s office on the honeybee scandal. Why isn’t the ACC getting involved in this matter? Isn’t it because some of the culprits involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations pertaining to honeybee are their colleagues at State House, even though some praise singers will falsely claim that it is actually State House that blocked the payment to honeybee?

Some of these officials we have mentioned above run law firms that are still doing business with the government. Like their principal, who has not only refused to publicly reveal his assets and declarations in the spirit of transparency but made it clear that his businesses are still doing business with the government, they don’t see any conflict of interest in their dealings. Take the current cases, for example. Those suing the State for malicious or wrongful prosecution are UPND cadres. Those representing the litigants are lawyers connected to the UPND. Those who have the responsibility to put up a fight on behalf of the State and in defence of public interest are connected to the UPND. Those deciding the huge amounts to be awarded to the petitioners are officials connected to the UPND. Doesn’t a consent order in this case benefit everyone involved: the cadres, the lawyers, the officials, and indeed the party, if some of these resources end up there? We are not saying those suing have no case. We are asking a simple question: can these officials really vigorously defend public interest against the ruling party members making the claims, even if these cases go to trial?

Zambia, we have been duped! These people in power today are not who they claim to be. They say one thing in private and another in public. They are wolves in sheep’s skins. The other problem is that many in civil society have been co-opted. With the exception of one or two people such as Brebner Changala, John Sangwa and Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, those from civil society who held to account or criticised the excesses of the previous administration are now serving in government bodies. With food in their mouth, they can no longer speak. Whenever they speak, it is to lead the choir of praise in such sycophantic fashion that they end up doing a disservice to those they support. Since they are incapable of embarrassment, one can only be embarrassed on their behalf. It is sad to see people with previously illustrious careers in civil society reduced to the role of praise singers.

The same problem of co-optation is noted in relation to Zambia’s public intellectuals. This group was instrumental in promoting progress and to political change prior to the 2021 election. By intellectuals, we do not mean those who display their educational attainments for anyone to see. We mean men and women attached to a university who have acquired a certain level of education that enables them to produce, disseminate, and apply new knowledge to the analysis or resolution of the problems of society. Intellectuals who use this specialist knowledge to comment on public issues in their areas of specialisation through mass platforms such as newspapers, television, or radio stations are called public intellectuals. Those who merely confine themselves to teaching and research in a university are called academics.

In many societies, especially those that place a premium on thinking, public intellectuals are role models. Since intellectuals play powerful legitimising roles, their criticism of the government has implications for the standing of the government in the eyes of the public. In Zambia, intellectuals have been frustrated by poor conditions of service, and their expertise has generally remained unsolicited and often underutilised. This may explain the extreme penchant, among our intellectual elite, for opportunism and willingness to be silenced in return for an appointment on a government board. So, when a few stand out and condemn injustices, that is worth celebrating.

Before August 12, 2021, there were several intellectuals who risked their careers and even lives to express outrage against the many wrongs that were happening under the previous government. There was Dr Grieve Chelwa, from the University of Cape Town, whose opposition to the economic reform measures sponsored by the IMF and World Bank was conveniently ignored and often frustrated. There were others like Ms Felicity Kayumba, Dr O’Brien Kaaba and Dr Pamela Sambo found in the School of Law at UNZA whose constant criticism of the judiciary and the executive were thought to be a matter of principle, not sheer opportunism. One or two, such as Dr Julius Kapempwa and Dr Cleopas Sambo from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, provided illuminating insights that raised public awareness and fed greater understanding of the government’s policy failures.

And who can forget the courageous voice of Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa who was subjected to threats on his life, faced the threat of prosecution for sedition and was disowned by his employer, the University of Zambia, over his critical writings in both print and on online media? There was also Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa at Zambia Open university and Professor Muna Ndulo in the United States of America, who never missed an opportunity to criticise the government, especially on matters that touch on human rights and the violation of the law. Even UNZALARU, the body of lecturers and researchers at UNZA, recovered its voice and appeared to regain its lost credibility on matters of public interest, such as Bill 10.

Which of these intellectuals who stuck their necks out to challenge undemocratic practices and confront human rights violations have continued with the same spirit or zeal of holding the government to power today? Except for one or two such as Dr Chelwa and Dr Sishuwa who continue to identify with the suffering of the people and have remained generally critical of the same things they condemned under PF, the intellectuals who previously spoke truth to power have become willing collaborators in the wrongs of the UPND. The record is there in the public domain for all to see. Today, most of these intellectuals have joined the incriminating silence of those who cannot speak with food in their mouths because they are enjoying the perks that come with serving on several government bodies, though they will go to great lengths to convince unsuspecting victims that it’s not about the money, or that the money is actually very little.

Other intellectuals are now deathly silent and simply looking away when wrongs occur because of a certain allegiance to the party in power, one that has anointed itself with the sanctity of a religious faith. If some of the wrongs occurring in this government had happened under the previous administration, these intellectuals would have been in the forefront of speaking out against such vices. Can anyone imagine these academics keeping quiet under President Lungu if ordinary people were jailed for insulting the president, or PF cadres took turns to sue the state for malicious or wrongful prosecution under the MMD and the Attorney General rushed to reach a minimum of K500, 000 settlement with each of them and even more money paid to their PF aligned lawyers?

Those who yesterday were in the front seat of condemning wrongs and injustices whenever they occurred are the ones who are today giving legitimacy to and rationalising the wrongs and injustices of the UPND. Some within group even say, “things are not yet as bad as they were under PF”, as if the PF wrongs are now the threshold we must reach before raising our voice against injustices. Others shamelessly say, “there is no county or government that is immune from wrong doers!” How can people lose their self-respect and dignity this way? Anyway, as former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki once said, empty stomachs can be good or bad teachers. The problem with our African intellectuals is that they too have stomachs, in addition to their excellent brains.

Who will defend public interest?

Fred M’membe
President of the Socialist Party


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