ON Wednesday, January 12, 2022, we were greeted by a newspaper banner headline alleging that the Anti-Corruption Commission was pursuing former Lusaka Province Minister, Bowman Lusambo and investigating him for the ownership of 49 or more properties in Lusaka and elsewhere.
Of course this was a lie designed to excite maximum public outrage against Mr Lusambo and officials of the previous government.
Later, ACC spokesperson Queen Chibwe, issued a statement and stated that Mr. Lusambo was being investigated and charged for six and not 49 properties reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
The previous day, Mr Lusambo was fighting another manufactured lie that peddled a narrative that the paternity dispute debate he has been engaged in with Ms Mercy Matongo Cowham was settled as the court-ordered DNA results were out and he was allegedly proven to be the father.
This false story quickly gained currency and traction as credible online pages and social-media influencers carried the story.
Of course the story was fake.
The Court has not yet ordered any DNA test yet.
Learning from the earlier fight against corruption, we must watch out for heightened propaganda and outrageous claims of theft and plunder.
As soon as the fight against corruption takes the course of propaganda, it becomes persecution and absurd.
When it is not driven by evidence or pursuit of alleged crimes, it becomes a political circus, a side-show to distract citizens from discussing serious national issues.
Law enforcement agencies and other oversight institutions must not be used as tools in this political fight as they risk losing their professional standing and respect in the eyes of the people.
MWIIMBU FORMS JOINT INVESTIGATIONS TEAM
On December, 3, 2021, the minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Mr Jack Mwiimbu announced that Government had constituted a Joint Investigations Team to probe past and present corruption cases with the intention of recovering alleged looted State assets.
Like the Taskforce on Corruption established by the government of President Levy Mwanawasa, the Joint Team of Investigations has not been established by the law or any legal framework.
Someone may argue that this body is ad-hoc in nature and officers in the team will use authority from their existing institutions.
However, any entity or body established to pursue such a mammoth and noble undertaking requires proper legal standing for legitimacy, legality and posterity purposes.
MUMBA MALILA ESTABLISHES FAST TRACK COURT
During the ceremonial opening of the High Court, Chief Justice Dr. Mumba Malila SC announced that he had set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Division Court.
He said he had invoked provisions of Article 133 of the Constitution which establishes the High Court.
And in the High Court, the Constitution has established, as divisions of the High Court, the
Industrial Relations Court, Commercial Court, Family Court and the Children’s Court.
Dr. Malila SC, has added a new inclusion and established the Economic and Financial Crimes Court Division.
He is clearly responding to earlier announcements by President Hakainde Hichilema who announced that a fast track court process will be established to handle economic and financial crimes of the past regime.
The Chief Justice has established the new division relying on Article 133(3) (3) which states that;
“The Chief Justice may constitute, by statutory instrument, specialised courts of the High Court to hear specific matters.”
So this action by the Chief Justice has been done, not because the country needs this division but because it is at the instigation of the Executive, thereby eroding or undermining the independence of the Judiciary.
Matters like this require broad consultations from stakeholders to establish consensus.
No matter how noble the cause, when propaganda and illegalities drive the process, they become a fly in the soup, poison in the chalice.
The fight against corruption must not be targeted, political or driven to obliterate political opponents.
Instead of pursuing crimes, the fight against corruption must not under the guise, become a witch-hunt, a tool to carry out vindictiveness and retribution as Justice and the rule of law will be sacrificed at the altar of political expedience.