"I believe that there were irregularities in the transaction and if it is proved that the price of the hearses was not inflated and that the terms of conditions were adhered to, I will resign as minister on principle"
The Local Government Minister Benny Tetamashimba has reported his predecessor Sylvia Masebo to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the auditor general concerning the purchase of hearses from China. The hearses are alleged to have been purchased at a staggering price of US $29,000 per hearse.
It is often difficult to distinguish calculated corruption from mismanagement. This may well turn out to be the case of the latter, but we must applaud Minister Tetamashimba's approach to this issue, where other Ministers have swept these matters under the carpet (although credit must also go to the Zambian people who are finally waking up and saying "not in my name"). It's obvious that as Minister he has looked into these documents and has concluded the law must take course. Perhaps there's some glimmer of hope that the era of national irresponsibility has started to crumble. So let us all make the collapse definite by seeing that all corrupt perpetrators are also seen to be punished. We need a new judicial process for convicting corrupt criminals, that is swift and definite (I have previously suggested "special corruption courts"). No point of having long prison sentences and good detection, if you cannot actually convict people efficiently and at minimal cost to the tax payer. In fact I would say that a corruption fight without an efficient court system has little deterrent effect on corruption.
Update (30 June 2009) :
Ms Masebo responded yesterday to the allegations, formally implicating Minister Tetamashimba in the hearses deal. It remains to be seen how much of this politics, mismanagement or genuine corruption. The important issue is that the matter is now in the hands of law enforcement officers.