By Francis Maingaila
LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) - President Edgar Lungu’s advice to his ministers “not to over steal” from the government coffers has landed him in a tight spot with critics accusing him of taking a casual approach to corruption in Zambia.
Lungu used the idiomatic expression “not to over steal” while speaking in the local language Bemba -- one of the 10 official languages of the country -- during a fundraiser in Kitwe city, located some 375 kilometers (233 miles) from capital Lusaka, on Feb. 10.
Political parties and a consortium of civil society organizations told journalists in separate briefings Wednesday the president’s attitude towards abuse of public funds was actually one of the major factors of rising corruption.
People’s Party President Michael Mulongoti accused Lungu of tolerating corruption by encouraging his ministers to steal using the local expression.
“It is unusual for the president to use idioms to counsel his ministers to steal from the people who entrusted them to administer public affairs,” Mulongoti told reporters in Lusaka.
On the other hand, a consortium of civil society organizations under the umbrella of the Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CSCA) also asked the president to immediately withdraw the idiomatic expression because it was a direct instruction to ministers and other officers to steal from the country’s treasury.
CSCA President John Maambo told journalists in another briefing that unless Lungus withdraw his statement, the organization would consider him as the man behind the rampant theft of public resources revealed in the last auditor general’s report.
“Unless the president withdraws the advice he gave to his ministers using local idiom, we will take it that he is behind the theft of public resources witnessed in his government,” Maambo said.
The Ruling Patriotic Front (PF), however, described the call to withdraw the president’s expression as malicious and accused the critics of making an interpretation out of context.
Party Secretary General Davis Mwila told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview that the CISCA wants to take advantage and portray the president as a corrupt man.