PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has reiterated his disdain for corruption with a clear roadmap on how his administration is going to tackle the scourge.
Mr Hichilema has made corruption one of his key priorities as his UPND takes control of the reins of government.
We welcome his resolve to fight corruption while at the same time ensuring that the law is followed to the letter.
It is one thing to state that you would fight corruption without ensuring that the legal framework is aligned with your aspirations.
Speaking at the official opening of Parliament in Lusaka yesterday, Mr Hichilema said Government will introduce mechanisms to fast-tract recovery of stolen assets and prosecution of corruption cases.
The President said specialised fast-track stolen assets recovery mechanisms and courts for corruption and economic crimes would be introduced in the fight against corruption.
He said his administration would wage war on corruption and not spare any expense to ensure that perpetrators were made to account for their impropriety.
While Zambians welcome this renewed fight against corruption, they have not forgotten how the war against corruption was derailed during the late President Levy Mwanawasa’s administration.
President Mwanawasa assumed the Presidency on a zero-tolerance against corruption policy. He immediately set up the now infamous and discredited Taskforce on Corruption.
And with venom, it went after Mr Mwanawasa’s predecessor, President Frederick Chiluba who was accused of having presided over a corrupt administration.
President Chiluba had his presidential immunity lifted and tried in the courts of law, facing multiple charges relating to theft amongst others.
But none of the charges were ever proved in court and he ended up being acquitted. His immunity was never lifted and the State is still holding some of his seized properties.
To date, it is on record that the Taskforce on Corruption was an exercise in futility and chewed more money than was purportedly stolen.
It turned out that it was more of a witch-hunt than anything else. It was a vindictive persecution against certain individuals in government then.
And while President Hichilema is riding on the goodwill of an expectant population, he has been warned not to use the fight against corruption as a witch-hunt against political opponents.
The new dawn government would do well to heed the advice from organisations like Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) which have advised against engaging in a witch-hunt for perceived offenders in its quest to recover stolen assets.
TIZ Executive Director Maurice Nyambe says they do not expect the fight against corruption to be vindictive or used to settle political scores.
He said the government should allow law enforcement agencies latitude to conduct independent investigations.
This is why we expect President Hichilema to ensure that his administration quickly reviews the policy and legal framework for oversight institutions to enable them to effectively fight economic crimes.
As Mr Nyambe said, we expect that law enforcement agencies will be given the latitude to conduct independent investigations on the basis of which follow up actions will take place.
Zambians do not want to go through that bitter experience wrought by the Taskforce on Corruption.
Yes, corruption must be fought but based on the rule of law and not on one’s political inclinations. A corrupt-free country is everyone’s ultimate desire.