A number of arrests of political opponents have been made since UPND formed government seven months ago. Of course, as a government of the day, they have a duty to pursue cases of alleged crimes.
However, the manner in which such suspected cases are handled, there is need to avoid vindictiveness and playing to the gallery. Most importantly, there is need to be mindful, always that damages are minimized in the event that the State loses the cases.
In my mind is the manner in which previous regimes high-handedly handled cases only to lose them, and the State was condemned to damages.
For example, in the recent past, we saw how the Dora Siliya case was handled only to lose it. Damages will follow.
We also saw the case of Former Intelligence Chief Xavier Chungu, only to lose. Damages will follow.
Additionally, we saw how the so-called treason cases of President Hakainde Hichilema, and Senior Chief Mukuni’ wife were handled. Damages will surely follow.
Now, we have Honorable Joe Malanje’s cases involving the Hotel in Kitwe and helicopters.
Those of us living in Kitwe know too well that he owned the hotel long before he was first elected as Member of Parliament. We understand that law enforcement officers have placed the hotel on restriction while the case proceeds. This means the hotel will continue running but cannot be sold, for example. Surely, this is a wise decision by the law enforcement agencies to avoid aggravated damages in the event that the State lost the case.
We are however worried with the issue of the two helicoptets where the law enforcement agencies announced a few days ago that they are making arrangements to go and fetch them from South Africa where they are packed.
We think that this decision is extremely irrational for two reasons. First, because of the costs involved to move them from there to Zambia. This is likely to be collossal to be borne by the State.
Second, is the parking and maintenance costs. Once the helicopters will be State hands, then it takes full responsibility for these costs. Some manufacturers require that only their certified experts are authorised to service their fleet. So, this may entail periodic bringing into the country experts for such service.
Third, it is dry costs. Once the helicopters are in the hands of the State, then from day one, the bill start running on daily basis. The assumption will be that the helicopters would have been hired daily, but for the State having taken possession of them.
It is clear how long the cases will take. So, these costs could run in millions of kwacha, if the State lost the cases.
Our view is that the State could extend what they have done for the hotel where, they merely issued restriction orders to minimize liability as much as possible in the case the State lost the cases.
The natural attitude of State is that “ni ndalana za boma”. Of course, it is State money involved, but those in authority must always remember that behind the scenes, there is a taxpayer who expects prudent management of the taxes they pay.
Also behind the scenes is the vulnerable patient who needs availability of medicines. This not to mention the vulnerable child who expects decent education. And that vulnerable elderly grandparent surviving on social security. Every penny matters.
We hope that the law enforcement agencies will rethink how they handle the helicopters recovery. Let sanity prevail, not emotion and playing to the gallery.