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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Another side of the corruption fight coin..

Opinion on Maxwell Nkole is extremely divided. Many believe that he was forced out by the govt to protect Chiluba. Others such as myself believe he was incompentent and achieved nothing under his tenure. The truth probably is somewhere in between but you would not know it from this FT piece :

First Person, Maxwell Nkole, Financial Times, Commentary :

I come from a very humble background. My father was a primary school teacher, my mother a housewife, there were eight children. You looked around you and wondered why some families were privileged. As a result, I’ve always had a passion for justice and fair play.

As a young man I enlisted in the police. I took a law degree at the University of Zambia, a Masters at Cardiff, and I rose to become chief of Zambia’s CID. Later, after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, I was sent to Kigali as a UN investigator, preparing cases for the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha.

When we got to Kigali there was no electricity or water – everything had broken down. Dead bodies were lying everywhere. The work was so nauseating you could hardly eat. We were operating in four languages, trying to harmonise all the different legal systems. But we set some important precedents. We put the former Rwandan prime minister on trial, the first head of state to plead guilty to genocide before a court. We had rape classified as a war crime.

Then Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa decided to inject new life into the corruption investigation into his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba. He knew government resources had been misapplied and didn’t have confidence in the Anti-Corruption Commission. He set up the Task Force on Corruption, and in 2005 I was made chairman.

The Task Force recovered 1,000bn kwacha ($263m), registering close to 15 high-profile convictions. We scored a massive triumph in May 2007 with a civil case in London against Chiluba, who was found, in his absence, to have stolen $46m and was ordered to pay it back to the Zambian people. He had spent more than £500,000 on designer clothes; the court exhibits included 72 pairs of shoes. It was appalling to see a head of state wallowing in such luxury.

Then Mwanawasa died. Last August, a court in Zambia cleared Chiluba of corruption, saying he was not a public servant and the funds could not be traced to public coffers. He never took the oath or presented any defence. There were glaring anomalies in the judgment, so my prosecutors lodged an appeal. The Director of Public Prosecutions blocked it – the government said enough money had been spent.

I was sacked and the Task Force has been disbanded. I suspect it was all part of a political deal between the current administration and Chiluba. Mwanawasa’s successor won the elections by a slim margin and his ministers seem to believe Chiluba can help them win the 2011 elections. There was a choice between supporting my job and Chiluba, and they chose Chiluba.

At the time, I was surprised – I had not expected them to be so ruthless. But then I looked back and realised these people had divorced from me a long time before. I used to brief Mwanawasa every month. I didn’t even meet the current president for the 11 months before my removal.

I went from being a corruption hunter to being one of the hunted. Chiluba and his people hate us. My team has been smeared; the president has suggested we overspent. They are welcome to examine our accounts.

People are realising now that corruption is a far bigger problem for development than they thought. In Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, all the specialised units set up to fight corruption have been undermined. The question is, what do you put in their place?

The good thing is that Zambians are up in arms. Before, they didn’t understand how the elite had acquired so much wealth while there was so little development. They didn’t know about the 349 shirts, the 206 designer jackets, the flats in Belgium. You cannot take the anti-corruption fight away from them now.

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