After several months of growing concerns over corruption investigations against sitting ministers in the Patriotic Front government, civil society groups are lashing out in criticism of President Michael Sata, arguing that he has gone soft on corruption compared to his bold campaign promises.
The most recent complaint comes from the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR), which circulated a statement this morning attacking President Sata over comments he made to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) instructing them to give special treatment to his Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, who is facing investigations over his shareholding in a company that allegedly benefitted from a recent oil supply contract.
According to the CDDR, the Zambian government is exercising “double standards” when it comes to issues of media coverage of its anti-corruption fight, as political opponents are frequently smeared in the pro-government media while state officials are untouchable.
“President Sata’s habit of personally intervening in anti-corruption matters in an effort to shield his ministers from prosecution represents a gross violation of judicial independence,” said Robert Amsterdam, counsel to the CDDR. “All Zambian citizens, regardless of political affiliation, are entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process of the law, without the president giving prejudicial orders to prosecutors on what crimes do or do not exist.”
President Sata’s public complaint to Director General Wandi has been interpreted as a gesture of approval for Kabimba’s controversial behavior when the ACC had called him in for questioning.
“For President Sata to complain about trials by headline represents the most cynical of double standards, given how he and his colleague Fred M’membe of The Post have repeatedly attacked the reputations of opposition members without evidence, including former President Rupiah Banda and his son Henry Banda,” said Amsterdam. “If President Sata wants to put an end to trials by headline, then he should immediately resign, as he is the biggest proponent of these smear campaigns. The hypocrisy is simply staggering.”
The CDDR press release also points out that the Minister of Defence Geoffrey Bwayla Mwamba is the subject of a corruption investigation, yet neither Mwamba nor Kabimba have been suspended by the PF government during these investigations.