By Gershom Ndhlovu
Fitting into the large boots of the late Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director-general Justice Robert Kapembwa was going to be difficult for anyone not least, Nixon Banda. Barely three years after he took over there are serious allegations of impropriety flying against him.
Kapembwa, a Supreme Court judge, was too squeaky clean a man he did not want a smudge of ink, let alone wrong spellings, on documents that landed on his desk. New officers were warned to be careful because he was “fastidious”.
He was a man who was rarely in the news during his tenure from circa 1987 up to his death in 2003, on matters of operation even less so, if ever, on his private life. The man who was instead always in the news was British-born Douglas Paul Russell, simply known as Paul Russell, who was director of operations. The mere mention of his name made civil servants quake in their boots if they were prone to corruption.
Those who did not know the operational structure of the ACC actually thought Russell was the overall boss and were surprised to learn that there was someone else, a Zambian, at the helm. They would ask why they never heard of him.
But typical of the man, the only time junior officers met him was at the end of an induction course when he would hand them with certificates.
There were very few junior officers that could walk into his office to discuss very important operational matters such as seeking authority for an urgent investigation that probably required a search warrant which would otherwise take long through the normal channels.
Junior officers could go for weeks on end without seeing Justice Kapembwa. They would only know about his presence because of his car parked on the usual spot next to his office. His health, however, started falling and he lost sight in one eye and the rest, as they say, is history.
He commanded so much respect both in life and in death such that at his valediction at the Supreme Court and at his funeral service at St. Paul’s UCZ in Kabwata as well as the actual burial, the people who were there read like a Who-Is-Who of Zambian society.
I must admit that I do not know much about Banda, or Nix B as officers call him, to say anything meaningful about him apart from scraps of information from those he works with.
I, however, have read a lot more newspaper statements from him about investigations, pending arrests and on his public forum appearances in the last three years than I ever did about Justice Kapembwa as head of ACC on similar issues.
Officers who served at the ACC in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that the word “standards” never left their lips before they did anything official or personal. An officer who conducted himself “against the purpose for which the ACC was established” was never dealt with lightly. The door was always waiting even at the mere whiff of scandal.
Whatever is happening at the ACC does not bode well for government’s much vaunted fight against corruption, for it is the very heart of the fight that is getting infected. Matters are not made any better with the recent events at DEC where the top brass have been arrested for impropriety.
Maybe our defence and security services need a major shake up at all levels if the rumours at the ACC, the arrest of DEC chief Ryan Chitoba, court appearances of former army and airforce commanders and even the conviction of former ZNS commander General Funjika for abuse of office, are anything to go by.
I do agree though, with the Law Association of Zambia’s demand that Banda should not step down but a tribunal be set up to verify the allegations. If he is cleared, well and good, he should continue signing those ACC 3s against others otherwise one should be opened against him, chapwa!