Stop harassing former Presidents
THE tendency by new ruling parties or new Presidents in Africa to persecute their predecessors is extremely retrogressive.
There is a pattern that has emerged where new Presidents engage in trashing the legacy of their predecessors, accuse them of massive acts of corruption, and prosecute them while seeking to consolidate their new power gained.
For any students of history, you immediately recognise that this is a well-trodden path – burn and destroy the legacy of your predecessor and rise on their ashes!
We have seen this tendency in the sub-region where former Presidents have been targeted, nations have been divided, supporters pitted against one another in the name of fighting corruption.
What this does is to scare leaders to leave office when their terms come to an end. We have seen in Africa where Presidents begin to engage in processes intended to unconstitutionally extend their terms, fearing what would happen if they left office.
Off course my strong take has always been that leaders, whilst in office, must use the time to promote national development and stay away from pilfering or plundering national resources.
However, pursuing them after they have left office is a sheer waste of valuable time, valuable time that should be used on implementing policies that promote national development and national unity.
While cooperating partners may cheer us on, and even deploy resources in the so-called fight against corruption, they never do this in their own countries, never arrest their former Presidents or Prime Ministers for perceived crimes done while they held office.
Coming to Zambia, we saw this with; Frederick Chiluba pursuing Kenneth Kaunda, Levy Mwanawasa pursuing Frederick Chiluba, even Michael Chilufya Sata pursuing Rupiah Bwezani Banda.
These so-called anti-corruption exercises ended up in utter failure because they were implemented in a targeted manner, were selective and were done for purely political expediency to promote parochial, narrow and political interests.
If we are serious about fighting corruption, let us strengthen anti-corruption institutions, deploy preventive mechanisms, plug leaks of public resources, implement annual recommendations of the Auditor General and Public Account Committee, review the procurement laws and regulations, and strengthen oversight institutions.
We can’t concentrate on one single aspect of fighting corruption – prosecution only – to secure public resources.
It has to be a comprehensive approach.
It is in this light that the manufactured calls to have the constitutional immunity of President Edgar Lungu must be rejected as they will do nothing to advance the cause of national development, national unity and the very fight against corruption.
The approach is designed to punish the former President for political purposes only.
As we have seen in the region, this approach has not yielded anticipated results but divided public perceptions about the true intention of pursing former Presidents.
We have walked this path before.
In the past we wasted precious public resources and destroyed institutions instead of building them.
We had officers travel to the United States of Americs, England, Switzerland, Dubai, Belgium, and other countries pursuing “stolen” public resources.
To recover stolen resources, we engaged FBI, Scotland Yard and others, and these yielded acres of news articles but no resources were ever recovered.
In fact, what happens is the corruption occurring during this period, is let to pass and measures to secure current public resources are abandoned.
We are walking the same path.
I am not saying let’s not fight corruption. I am saying let’s fight corruption in the correct way, and in a comprehensive manner including prosecution.
Fighting corruption must not start and end with prosecutions.
My appeal to the new government and to President Hakainde Hichilema is to focus on pursuing national development, creating employment, dismantling the debt burden, resolve bottle-necks hindering rapid economic growth and promote national unity.