Berlin based Transparency international (TI) has welcomed as a step in the right direction a Zambia Court’s ruling that slapped a two-year sentence for graft on a former military leader, who served in former President Frederic Chiluba’s administration. Wilford Funjika’s jail sentence becomes the latest high-profile figure to be convicted and sentenced to jail for corruption during Chiluba’s ten-year administration, which ended in 2001.
Funjika was found guilty of receiving about 31-thousand dollars in bribes for awarding a contract to a local firm without due process. From Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, Transparency International’s Reuben Lifuka tells reporter Peter Clottey that the judgment indicates the court is playing its role in the fight against graft.
“It’s an important step taken. We’ve watched the high profile cases in court and we’ve been hoping that the court would deliver judgment as soon as possible. So when one sees that the court has finally handed down judgment, it proves that the courts are also playing the role in fighting corruption. However, we may not start celebrating the success of the fight against corruption because we keep seeing an increase in the number of graft cases even in the current administration,” Lifuka noted.
He said there is the need for Zambia to have a clear objective in its fight against graft, which he said in on the ascendancy.
“Seriously, we need to have appropriate strategies, which would try to prevent corruption, as opposed to just investigating and prosecuting the cases in the courts of law. So there is still a lot to be done in order for us to deal successfully with the high levels of corruption in the public sector in particular,” he said.
Lifuka said Transparency International has objected to what appears to be selective justice in President’s Levy Mwanawasa’s drive against graft.
“Our concerns (focus) about what seemingly looks like selective prosecution of cases and to that extent, we’ve raised our voice as Transparency International, saying that government needed to approach the fight against corruption objectively. And as to whether this is a witch-hunt on the part of government, we can only speculate, except to say that government has not been forthcoming in dealing decisively with corruption, which is among the rank and file of the current leadership,” Lifuka pointed out.
He said there was the need for the anti-corruption task force to be autonomous in all aspects to enable it fight graft effectively.
“We’ve equally expressed concern that the Task Force on Corruption and Economic Plunder has a limited window of operation, just ten years of former President Chiluba’s administration. And if the argument is that the corruption, which was committed is sophisticated and needed a task force, the question we keep asking is, who is going to investigate the corruption of the Mwanawasa administration? And we are not the one making that assertion. The president is on record having indicated that corruption is still rife in within his own administration,” he said.
Lifuka said it is regrettable that the fight against corruption targets various Zambian governments that have not been holistic and objective.
“Unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult to see most of the administration being objective because the fight against corruption has been used quite frequently to get at political opponents, and as a result what you see is that people raise cases of corruption against opponents who they think they would like to nail down,” Lifuka said.