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Welcome to the witch-hunt, Mary

My VIEWPOINT with JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
HEY, in case you missed the last episode of Scandal!, the movie director just added a new character; it’s the feisty and tenacious Mary Chirwa. The plot can only thicken, hopefully. Of course that is how it feels these days watching unfurling events in our country. The drama plays out on our streets and in people’s bedrooms. But who would have guessed the latest twist to the script? Hmmm, the appointment of Mary Chirwa as Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) boss by President Hakainde Hichilema, moving her from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), is a naughty move, and a possible game changer in the fight against corruption. For starters, Mary’s job is well cut out – by herself actually. When she was at FIC, she generated yearly reports on financial crimes and corruption, which she sent to law enforcement agencies, including DEC. In 2020 a total of 14 intelligence reports on corruption were sent to law enforcement agencies. The amount involved was K2.22 billion. Some of the corruption trends Mary saw from her previous vantage point were: prominent influential persons using their positions in public institutions to influence the awarding of contracts to companies in exchange for gratification in the form of cash, real estate and motor vehicles. Contracts being awarded to individuals with advance payments without any intentions to execute works. Awarding of contracts to entities that had no capacity and were non-compliant for tax purposes. Exploitation of single- sourcing, as well as companies awarding contracts to close associates of prominent people to conceal ultimate beneficial owners. Then there was also overpricing of contract amounts. But whoever bothered much about Mary then? She was treated like a nagging little girl. Others turned her into a target for crude sexist jibe. And so Mary’s job now is to dust those same reports she sent to DEC and act upon them herself. Yes, the same reports those in power then deemed useless, or else they would have acted on them. But they dismissed them with disdain and vehemently refused to act upon them. Edgar Lungu called them speculative and would have little to do with them. As far as he was concerned, the whole thing was just a witch hunt. In fact, the whole PF always dismissed reports about corruption within government with the same snobbish attitude, challenging citizens to produce evidence against named officials. As far as they were concerned, they were a bunch of infallible beings that God had gifted to the Zambian people. And so whenever the FIC report was released, it was just another academic exercise – a window-dressing event meant to hoodwink citizens and appease the donors. I still remember how the 2018 report was roundly condemned by those in the previous government, with President Lungu himself leading the bashing. Yet the boss lady proved stubborn and relentless – a real pain in the neck of those that loved to play hide-and-seek with public resources. And so Mary must now prove herself right to the nation – that what she reported was no mere speculation or a figment of her own imagination. She must now add names to the reports and turn them into active cases. Hope it’s as simple as it sounds. Given her background, this fearless woman could just be the cog that the corruption crusade needs to take off. Still not a walk in the park when those being pursued are putting up a big fight, dismissing the fight against corruption and heaping all sorts of tags on it. Like I said before, the best weapon for those who may be found wanting in the crusade against corruption is to discredit it; and what better way than to call it a witch-hunt. By that, they want to portray the person at the helm of the crusade – that being the President – as an evil person on a senseless and malicious mission to destroy innocent people and deprive them of their hard-earned wealth. What the clique forgets is that the August 12 general election was a referendum to get rid of bad governance and corruption, and while they play victim, the Zambian people still have stark memories of their braggadocio, flaunting wealth before poverty-stricken citizens. HH must now redeem the time many feel he has lost in the fight against corruption, allowing some with soiled hands to wipe them behind their backs. His next stop must now be the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which has proved inept and completely out of synch with his pronouncements, and has turned the whole corruption fight into a circus. By their own admission last week, out of 1,204 cases ACC was pursuing, only 29 cases are in court. Or how about merging DEC and ACC and create something as fearsome as the Scorpions in South Africa? For comments email: jzimba@daily-mail.co.zm, jackzimba777@gmail.com, WhatsApp line 0979309545


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