By Isaac Mwanza
I learnt of the arrest, charging and detention of Anthony Bwalya and Mubita Nawa by the Zambia Police Service with sadness for various reasons. My personal position is that the Police should discontinue this case by dropping the charges against them not only because they are unlikely to secure a conviction on the charges of forgery and theft but also that both Anthony Bwalya and Mubita Nawa, are simply unwitting victims of UPND tactics and Hakainde Hichilema’s 2021 manipulative attempt to secure victory in August, 2021.
From the charges levelled against the two men, the police may want to argue in Court that the duo did steal the materials belonging to the Electoral Commission of Zambia and Department of National Registration, namely, the paper used for making voter’s cards and National Registration Cards and thereby, committed forgery by producing what appeared to be the identity cards of children below the age of 16 for purposes of those children, voting in the forthcoming elections.
In my view, the prosecution cannot secure a conviction from these charges and, if the DPP won’t enter a nolle in the process, this arrest and prosecution will only embarrass the prosecution. Apart from the burden of proof lying with the prosecution, one only has to read the recent decision by the Court of Appeal on similar charges of forgery and theft in Richard Sinkonde v. The People, Appeal No. 109 of 2018.
It is unfortunate that both Anthony and Mubita, despite being intelligent, could not recognize that the same documents they displayed as voter’s cards and NRCs are nothing but a product of the UPND election team meant to justify UPND claims of vote rigging if their candidate, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, should lose the forthcoming presidential election.
The two men, Mr. Bwalya and Mr. Mbita, should have recognised that what purported to be NRCs and Voter’s Cards were in fact blatant forgeries. Or, perhaps they knew but in furtherance of their own career ambitions, chose to present these forgeries on public forums as an attempt by the Departments of National Registration and the Electoral Commission of Zambia to assist the ruling Patriotic Front party to win the elections and retain power?
Either way, the two men ought to have recognised that they were being used, or else were willing participants in a fraudulent scheme to discredit our electoral process which, since independence, has been known to be the best on the African continent and one of the most secure electoral systems in the world. Many countries now emulate the Zambian electoral system for its openness and its security.
Again, I doubt the prosecution will manage to prove that Anthony and Mubita stole the materials from ECZ which they used to commit a forgery. But assuming the materials in question were genuine, the said Court of Appeal judgment cited above was clear that issues of forgery cannot stand.
Instead of wasting precious resources, time and our attention in the possibly fruitless prosecution of Anthony Bwalya in the same way the country has been wasting time discussing the procurement of alleged defective health kits by Government, we have much more important things to focus on as a nation such as our fight against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, righting the economy and harnessing our agriculture potential.
As a country, we seem to be lacking discernment in so many things that we are being moved by political gossip and fights of business entities who are beneficiaries of supply contracts to Government without understanding what is really at play. When we, as the public, are put in the middle of these fights by the heavyweights, we begin to pity ourselves while those giants are enjoying the benefits of our self-pity.
This is what happened when the Ministry of Local Government procured the fire tenders a few years ago. Those business giants who felt aggrieved for not having been awarded the tender to supply fire trucks, ganged up against Mr. Bokani Soko and his company who had won the contract to supply the fire trucks. Those who lost the tender, turned the whole nation upside down with their exaggerated aged grievance and manipulated the situation in such a way as to make us feel as if Mr. Bokani Soko had robbed us when he was simply doing business and was just the winner of the tender to supply fire trucks.
Mr. Bokani Soko and his company did not waste their time responding to the grievances of their business competitors but stuck to their business of delivering the goods they had tendered for.
Today, these same battles have arisen as regards the supply of health kits to Government. From where I stand, similar fights between business giants which happened earlier in the case of the 42 fire trucks are no different from is happening now. From my lens, these may just be the fights of big business giants and we as the public are just a means to satisfy those who are now landing heavy blows on those who won that contract.
The difference with this fight, though, is that it is the same institutions of Government – accomplices in committing the alleged “wrongs” – who are trying to portray themselves as champions against the supplier. I personally don’t believe in the alleged defects of the health kits until independent tests are done and I take what is happening as nothing more than a fight among business people, now resorting to dirty tactics by attempting to rope in political actors as having aided and abetted one side or the other.
Poor Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, the former Minister of Health, is but one victim of this dirty fighting among suppliers to the Ministry of Health which dispenses billions of Kwacha in both taxpayer and donor funds to our business people.
Who are the losers and winners of these current scenarios discussed above? This administration has been painted as very uncaring and extremely negligent by the very government institutions under their charge. This cannot be blamed on the opposition but the very institutions of government themselves and the silence we keep hearing which is not reassuring to the Zambian people.
The failure to commission a proper, independent test of the items supplied by one of these suppliers, is adding to the perception that the government is guilty as charged in the court of public opinion. For the opposition, what is happening is a big win for them. They have campaign issues to talk about premised on the apparent admission of guilt by the government, because of its silence. In other words, the government’s silence can and has been taken to mean that the government has no defence to offer and is therefore guilty.
But lies always have short legs. The onus now rests with the Republican President to act and reassure Zambians of their safety. For me, the first step is for the President to order the removal of senior staff at the Ministry of Health headquarters at Ndeke House and Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA), including their secretarial and clerical staff who are all complicit in these system failures. At the time of completing this article, the President has gone further to act. This is commendable.
One only needs to visit Ndeke House to witness the rot at the place, where even low-level staff can withhold documents in order to force the recipient to pay something to collect their own letter of appointment or confirmation or transfer. The President must act decisively and reshuffle staff at the Ministry headquarters.
Most importantly, it is my belief that the President must dissolve ZAMRA, Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and Medical Stores Limited (MSL) Boards, remove the staff at the top and reshuffle the rest. If possible, these institutions must be placed under the oversight of the President the same way that RDA was placed under the oversight of the President.
ZAMRA, ZABS and MSL are a failure and will contribute to the fall of the PF government in the same way the failure by the PF and Government to counter continuous allegations of corruption is seriously damaging the name of the regime which has only been in office for less than 10 years.