By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
I am slowly beginning to think that the MMD government runs a Mafia-type system where for as long as you are part of them and have kept the omerta—the oath of secrecy—you are very part of them and all your crimes are glossed over or covered up altogether.
How else can one explain the allegations of crimes that have been exposed against Kafulafuta member of parliament George Mpombo who resigned his Cabinet and party positions early last year; the threats of exposure of alleged crimes against former Works and Supply Minister Mike Mulongoti who was also expelled from the party; claims by Lusaka Province MMD chairman William Banda that Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo was involved in illegal foreign exchange dealings or something to that effect and, the latest exposure against newly resigned Deputy Works and Supply Minister Lameck Mangani that he has not been paying rentals for the house his second wife occupies in Chipata?
Mpombo who resigned as Defence Minister, is probably the only minister and government employee to be indicted for abuse of government resources exposed by the Auditor-General’s office. As this matter is sub judice, I will not dwell on it. Be that as it may, Mpombo has suffered even more humiliation by being convicted of bouncing a cheque, making history as the first person to have ever been convicted of that case for the law that was passed a few years back.
The Ndola rural legislator’s woes followed his outspokenness against perceived weaknesses of President Rupiah Banda, the man who took over from Mpombo’s tribesman and close ally, the late Levy Mwanawasa, both as Republican president and MMD acting leader at the time. Within a few weeks of Mpombo’s resignation, he was to be a frequent guest of the state on the other side of the law.
Assuming that Mpombo was still a part of government, the ever quiet and loyal servant of the President, none of us lesser citizens would have heard about his business misfortune of bouncing a cheque, of forging imprest receipts and even owing a bank over K500 million for his farm business on the Copperbelt.
For Mulongoti, the man who had been a loyal MMD member ever since he returned as a prodigal son from the FDD and subsequently nominated and appointed minister by the late Mwnawasa, made a mistake of trying to challenge for the then vacant position of MMD vice president at the party’s convention. President Banda’s preferred candidate was Republican Vice President George Kunda.
Mulongoti’s interest in the position engendered so much acrimony, the party decided to scrap the position altogether. Mulongoti’s nomination to parliament was withdrawn and automatically lost his ministerial position. The party’s former chairman of elections continued speaking out against President Banda and the MMD for losing the democratic compass.
The position of vice president in the MMD seems to be very problematic. In 2006, President Mwanawasa suspended elections of the position, effectively making former Republican Vice President Enoch Kavindele the last elected MMD vice president, the position he assumed in 2001 after another acrimonious convention at which 22 senior MMD members including Mulongoti, were expelled.
A few days after Mulongoti was relieved of his duties by President Banda, the man he helped bring into the MMD from UNIP and later helped to get elected as Republican president, chief government spokesman and information minister Ronnie Shikapwasha asked his former Cabinet colleague to keep quiet as the government reserved the right to commence investigations against him for unspecified crimes.
As I write, do not know if any investigations have been commenced against Mulongoti but he called off their bluff by saying he had deposited some documents apparently about on-goings in government with some lawyers as well as family and friends. Whether this scared his would be tormentors or not, is difficult to say.
Even more outrageous was William Banda’s disclosure after the high profile defection of Sylvia Masebo from the MMD a few weeks ago that government would launch investigations against her for some foreign exchange crimes. Obviously, Banda was anachronistically operating in his former party, UNIP’s mindset, that possession of foreign exchange was a crime. Again, it is difficult to tell whether or not investigative wings have gone in to investigate Masebo who has since joined Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF).
Another victim is former permanent secretary Susan Sikaneta who served in various ministries whom it was disclosed immediately she was associated with the PF that she was being investigated for corruption offences. Again, I am not in a position to comment on what Sikaneta has done or not done to warrant a visit from law enforcement agencies.
For the critical minded, examining these threats and counter-threats coming from the MMD and former MMD members, it appears that the ruling party holds its members hostage, even at ransom, for indiscretions if not crimes that they commit while working in either the party or, indeed, the government.
There is definitely something wrong that crimes or alleged crimes committed by people serving in government or in the MMD are only disclosed after they have left the service of the party or the government usually arising from serious differences. Those who go quietly are reappointed and their “loyalty” praised.
Maybe it explains why Gabriel Namulambe whom it was rumoured was about to defect to the opposition, said it was sweet to be a minister in the MMD government. Ironically, when Namulambe briefly fell out with President Banda, it was revealed that he had acquired seven industrial plots in Mpongwe where he is MP and once served as district secretary.
As Zambians go to the polls later this year, they need to become even more discerning and more demanding of the morality of their leaders. Maybe it is time citizens broke the MMD Mafia hold on them!