Corruption is a cancer that should be fought by all well meaning citizens regardless of who is involved. Its resultant effects curtail public service delivery, provision of social services such as medicines and essential requirements in hospitals, education materials in schools, social welfare to the needy and distorts the image of the country to the outside world thereby affecting the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), credit rating of a country leading to poor bond performance and higher interest rates for both the private and public sector. Hence fighting corruption is not only necessary but inevitable in any progressive society.
Having looked at the comments from various stakeholders regarding the 48 flats forfeited to the State, it can be deduced that their main focus has been on establishing who owns the flats in question especially following some online publication which claimed that the first family was involved in the saga.
The land in question was formally owned in 2007 by a named man of Indian origin. In the course of time, he gave a power of Attorney to a land consultancy firm to subdivide into various slots and sell to anyone interested. A named junior Government official, with the help of his lawyers at Godfrey House, bought the land where the flats in question are sitting and other slots that have not been developed because he has not yet fully paid for them. The first tenant in the properties that have been seized moved in somewhere in 2014.
Following the publication of the intentions of the ACC to forfeit the apartments in question, the “owner” through the same lawyers who helped him purchase the land, made attempts to curtail the forfeiture in Court. Upon being advised that the right place to make an appeal was not the Court but the ACC, the said lawyer withdrew the matter from Court and wrote a letter claiming that they erroneously represented one of the gentlemen under investigation. As to whether a lawyer can represent you in Court then later on withdraw claiming they never got instructions from you is a matter left for legal minds to debate. Are they concealing evidence?
Information so far gathered even by media houses is that the company with the power of attorney has all the information on who purchased the land. Indeed there were cases whereby someone was given money by a relative or friend in the Diaspora to make payments on their behalf before the title deed was processed in the name of the rightful owner. Be that as it may, all the information presented at all stages is there unless those being sent to collect the information or the ones providing the information are hiding something. Zesco should also have information on who had applied for connection to power. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see how the next stage will unfold.
What the ACC has so far achieved is to successfully take charge of the properties in question. This action, in and of itself, has prevented the suspects from enjoying the proceeds from the rentals. This milestone has been overlooked by certain quarters because their focus was on the need to expose the owner following various conjectures on who the “real owner” was.
Of note is the fact that the apartments in question are different from the 49 mentioned in the FIC 2018 report because this is a matter which has been active since 2016. I once heard someone express their concerns as to why the numbers of houses had reduced. You are talking about two different cases here. As for the first family, they were just dragged into the mud for reasons best known to those who came up with that story as the construction of the apartments started way before they went into state house and the person being specifically mentioned was not even in Zambia.
Finally, criminals are becoming very sophisticated hence the need to revise laws to take into account developments and changes in our environment. The onus is on the ACC to learn from experiences such as this one and adapt before they get lost on the sea with no campus at their disposal. The process should also be do transparent to prevent officers on the grounds from conniving with criminals and thereby undermine the justice system. As they embark on the criminal route to bring this matter to its logical conclusion, I am sure the estate agents will be key in disclosing who the owner is. For now, we should not undermine the role so far played by the ACC. How they handle the criminal side of the same case will be looked at when the matter comes to an end.