By Gershom Ndhlovu
The verbal ping-pong that has been going on for a while now between former president Frederick Chiluba, businessman Rajan Mahtani on the one hand and Panji and Kaweche Kaunda on the other, is only doing one thing, giving the nation a glimpse of what goes on in State House.
With all that has been disclosed so far, ranging from Mahtani’s companies allegedly grabbing business from parastatal companies, to Zahid Nizam and his Credit Africa Bank, to the unresolved Carrington maize deal, to RAMCOZ’s Gokul Binani, it appears that our presidents spend more time cutting deals for themselves and their friends than serving the nation’s interests.
How does one explain a sitting president phoning another president in a neighbouring country to introduce a businessman? How does one explain a sitting president ordering a businessman not to pay a debt to another businessman? There are a lot of questions that need answers if what we have heard from Chiluba, Mahtani and former president Kaunda’s sons is anything to go by.
Doesn’t this explain why only very few people, usually with connections to corridors of power, tend to prosper while the rest of the citizens remain ever more impoverished? Just what is the logic of giving a contract and paying a lot of money for that matter, to a company under construction and has yet to start production?
At a time when no meaningful explanation about the revelations from the on-going drama has been given by the government, it is strange that chief government spokesman, Mike Mulongoti who is also information minister, is threatening to lock up Chiluba for “breaching” the oath of office.
Stranger still is that Mulongoti’s threat comes at a time when President Mwanawasa’s name appears close to being dragged in the mud in these disclosures. Who doesn’t know that Chiluba’s integrity is in tatters for what we now know in the plunder of national resources and has to salvage it one or the other?
Not that Chiluba is an angel; he betrayed the citizens who entrusted him with the privilege of being president by his actions. But to threaten him with arrest for his “revelations” is over the top.
The best that can be done is for investigative wings to look into the allegations of some of the things he is saying. A number of people are privately attesting to the veracity of some of Chiluba’s allegations but cannot come out in the open for fear of being seen to side with him.
The beauty of things in Zambia now is that a head of state is immune from prosecution in the five or ten years he is in office but the spectre of being harassed by junior police officers looms large after his or her tenure for any wrongs committed at the height of sweet power.
Mulongoti and others will defend the apparent wrong doings revealed by Chiluba because they are enjoying the trappings of power. They should not, however, forget that this exactly what happened when Kaunda used to warn the nation about what was going on in the Chiluba administration.
The nation thought Kaunda was a bitter old man just out to get Chiluba for kicking him out of power. Kaunda has more or less been vindicated and he is today an internationally respected statesman.
On the contrary, Chiluba has just lost a civil case in London for abusing national resources and he is appearing in court in Zambia on criminal charges for abuse of office on just about the very things that “Super Ken” warned us about.
Taking that as a lesson, the nation should wake up and take what Chiluba is saying a bit more seriously because when the time comes, a lot of damage will have been done and not only that, another former president will be appearing in court for plunder.
The people appearing to be defending Mwanawasa now will move on, continuing to hold ministerial or diplomatic positions in another government and vilifying him.