Zambia’s youth and sports minister, Chishimba Kambwili has called on the country’s anti-graft agency to investigate him after critics accused him of nepotism and embezzling state funds.
Kambwili is accused of diverting funds earmarked for a nationwide Youth Development project to his family and girlfriends.
Zambian newspapers have reported the allegations, saying they come from rival members in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) Party.
Kambwili has denied the accusations, saying they were an attempt by his detractors to tarnish his reputation.
“To me that is defamation of character of the worse kind and because that issue went on the internet and all over, it is only reasonable that it goes to the Anti-Corruption Commission [ACC] to justify [the] claim,” Kambwili said. “And then let the [ACC] investigate the issue and inform the people of Zambia, whether that allegation is correct.”
He says Zambia needs honest officials to help President Michael Sata or any other head of state to run the country’s affairs.
“I am one person who believes that we must come out clean on issues of corruption,” said Kambwili. “So if anybody makes wild allegation of corruption, I take strong exceptions. And the only legal entity that can clear me of those allegations is the Anti-Corruption Commission.”
Some Zambians have demanded that Kambwili resign before any inquiry so that he would not have any influence over a possible investigation.
Kambwili says he is ready to step aside.
“It is the prerogative of the president to send me on leave, if he feels or finds it necessary, while the investigations are on. And I am ready even to go on leave in order to allow for investigations,” he said.
Kambwili says the government budgeted about $2.2 million for youth empowerment and poverty alleviation projects this year, but that his office has no direct control over this money.
“This fund is administered by a committee at provincial level, where the Anti-Corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement and people from the private sector and the banks sit,” said Kambwili. “They make a decision on which organizations they are going to fund, the minister only comes in to go and hand over the checks to the successful applicant.”
Kambwili says he has instructed his attorneys to file defamation suits against his accusers if they fail to publicly withdraw the allegations against him.
“[They] should retract the statement, give an apology or we shall take them to court
for defamation of character.”
Representatives of the ACC were not immediately available to comment on the minister’s investigation demand, despite repeated attempts.