MY VIEWPOINT with JACK ZIMBA
THIS is what the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and its sister agencies plainly told Faith Musonda, the lady behind the K65 million loot, last week, “You are guilty as hell, but you are free to go.”
For looting millions of public funds, Faith got nothing more than a slap on the wrist, while many citizens now feel like they got a slap on the face.
Such travesty of justice went with the old regime, so we were meant to believe, but no!
Faith must be such a super lucky girl for having such an easy escape with the law!
What we thought were hours of hard, nose-bruising interrogation by investigators was actually deal brokering to let Faith go scot free.
ACC had to dig up a law that many citizens didn’t know even existed to create an escape door for Faith.
According to Section 80 (3) of the Anti-Corruption Act number 3 of 2012, Anti-Corruption Commission “may tender an undertaking, in writing, not to institute criminal proceedings against a person who
(a) has given a full and true disclosure of all material facts relating to past corrupt conduct and an illegal activity by that person or others; and,
(b) has voluntarily paid, deposited or refunded all property the person acquired through corruption or illegal activity.”
And so after anxiously waiting to see Faith in court, and eventually behind bars, ACC announced nonchalantly that Ms Musonda had made full disclosure of the monies in question and had willingly surrendered the same to the State and, therefore, she would not face any prosecution for her criminality.
Yes, while it is important to recover stolen public resources and property, we must not reserve punishment for offenders to make them an example to would-be offenders.
And the lingering question, really, is not how Faith was let off the hook, but why.
Besides, we should not make this case about Faith alone, as if she, by wizardry powers, drew the money from some bank and carted it home. This is not a case of two people, definitely not three.
Citizens deserve to know the other people involved in the heist.
Definitely someone must have made the call, someone must have authorised, someone must have unlocked the vault, someone must have transported the cash.
The question is: Who?
There is a lot that yet we do not know, that is why there cannot be full closure to this case.
Until Faith’s accomplices are named, this case will remain active – unsolved. At least in the public’s eyes.
ACC cannot simply paper it over with a legal document and urge everyone to simply hop on.
Hey, remember how not too long ago we all scoffed at the absurdity that 48 houses could exist without anyone having built them, since no-one claimed ownership of them.
Yet now we are expected to believe that K65 million could simply have flown out of the vault at some bank and landed in a girl’s lap 20 km away.
And I wonder if this law was going to be applied if it was not Faith.
What if Faith was just a village girl with no connections with the rich and powerful in society?
What if Faith was Miriam Zulu?
Ah, of course, you most probably never heard about Miriam.
On February 22, Miriam Zulu, a 36-year-old woman of Vusi village in Chief Mishoro’s area in Kasenengwa district, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour after pleading guilty to obtaining money by false pretences.
Miriam had admitted to swindling someone out of more than K4,000 in a fertiliser scam.
In mitigation, Miriam had pleaded with the court to exercise leniency on her as she was a single mother taking care of orphaned children.
“Your honour, I am guilty as charged, please pardon me. I just wanted to provide for my orphaned children. I have no husband and as I speak to you my children are on their own,” she said.
Miriam was sentenced to nine months imprisonment to allow her to – as the magistrate put it – “reflect on her wrong-doing”.
Miriam is probably sitting in a dingy cell somewhere as you read this, but who cares, she’s just a village girl who got what she deserved.
Unlike Faith, Miriam didn’t have high-class lawyers to escort her to court, she didn’t arrive in style in a Range Rover swarmed by snooping journalists like an A-list celebrity.
She was just a village girl driven by motherly instinct to fend for her starving children.
Of course some will accuse me of being overly simplistic by comparing the two, but really, what’s the difference?
Isn’t Lady Justice blind, and cannot tell the difference between a village girl in flip-flops and a high class thief wearing Prada and carrying a Gucci handbag?
No, we should never give sight to our Lady Justice.
Any law that gives sight to Lady Justice is a bad law and must be discarded.
Clearly this law was meant to favour the greedy rich.
Wrong-doers must be given time to reform, and they don’t reform by being let scot-free.
Even the Bible says a thief must pay back sevenfold what he stole.
It, therefore, goes that a thief must not only lose what he stole by surrendering it, but must also lose his freedom.
What was wrong with prosecuting the case and giving Faith a lesser sentence for being cooperative with investigators?
By applying this law, ACC has rendered itself ineffective in the eyes of the citizens who count effectiveness of law enforcement by the number of wrong doers behind bars, and not by the excess loot they decide to return.
And to HH, Zambians voted for a jailer, not a priest. We will leave forgiveness to God, but justice must be served on whom it must be served.
The President should not lose touch with the people over the fight against corruption.
Cutting deals with people perceived to be criminals, even to the restoration of public finances, will only erode the confidence citizens placed in HH and his government.
The President promised that he would make corruption unattractive and this definitely not by letting offenders skip jail!
Anyone who steals from the public is an enemy of the public and must be treated as such.
People like Faith should never be the envy of our society, or be role models to our children.
Anyone caught stealing must be subjected to a walk of shame; they should not strut into a police station chin-up like Robin Hood.
Even in a game of Monopoly, one is meant to suffer shame for wrong-doing without compromise.
Or should we now believe those from the previous regime who have constantly cast aspersions on the fight against corruption, urging the nation to simply look away and move on because fighting corruption is too expensive and hard?
No, I believe we still have a chance to win this war, and I believe correctional facilities still have room for the rich and powerful, and the beautiful, too.
But if Faith, who in the eyes of society now represents the face of plunder under the previous regime, goes scot-free, then who will go in?
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