By Chimwemwe Mwanza
Dr George Magwende’s dismissal is striking, not just for the resultant backlash against the President from the esteemed surgeon’s legion of sympathysers but that it is happening right on the eve of the first anniversary celebration to mark the incumbent government’s ascendancy to power.
Curiously, the sacked Health Permanent Secretary (PS) has earned a rare but dubious distinction by becoming the first high ranking official to be dismissed in this new dispensation. Off significance though, Magwende is not a remnant from the previous regime but was appointed to this position by President Hakainde Hichilema. In essence, he is from the fresh crop of new leaders, the more reason why revelations that he is a subject of investigations for alleged corrupt malpractices add a new but interesting twist to this development.
Let us be clear, Magwende is not guilty and neither has he been charged of any crime. But still, what do we make of his dismissal amidst plumes of corruption? Decoding this development is off course a difficult ask only made easy by one’s political affiliation. For the independent minded, Magwende’s sacking is a tacit admission and a major one for that matter by this government that it after all has miscreants in its midst or at least its technocrats have feet of clay. In other ways, the walls of Jericho are not as impervious as we have been made to believe.
However, the purists in UPND hold a different view. They are already seeing beyond the smoke, actually they see a fire. If it were up to them, they would want to make all sundry believe that beneath President Hichilema’s impish outer veneer, is a hard-nosed and calculating politician that is not only allergic to corruption but knows when to strike – pretty much like the fish should never mistake the silence of clear skies for absence of an eagle. In their minds, HH is in all likelihood correct in his decision to sack the poor doctor.
Then there is the opposition which believe that Magwende’s dismissal is a smokescreen to cover up a much bigger scandal involving big fish. Whispers allege that the doctor was keeping gate or had somewhat been a hindrance to corrupt elements that want to loot the Ministry of Health. It is a part of this group that has stuck out both their hands and heads to vouch for the credibility of the good doctor. In their defence, they see in him a family man and righteous individual that is being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. To them, the Magwende they know is incorruptible – a man of valour so to speak.
In fairness, everyone is entitled to a view on this matter but to defend an individual on account of deeply held friendships is a tad too far. Question is, have we even seen the smoking gun or dossier against the former PS? Isn’t the law meant to be blind to our pursuit for justice – meaning we are all equal before the law regardless of status, gender, or creed. It is this unflinching loyalty and defence being proffered to the doctor that is setting us on a dangerous trajectory.
At best, the inference here is that Magwende for whatever reason is beyond reproach and should not in any way be associated or linked to corruption. Ninshi abachindama olo balya aba sambilila, bena teti babe ba pompwe? If this were the case, then there surely must be people out there that can also vouch for the integrity of the likes of Dr Chitalu Chilufya or Ronald Chitotela – that is if they have any at all.
This public cleansing or sanctification of unsavoury characters or behaviour is dead wrong. It is merely laying fertile grounds for building a class society. Ghastly as this may sound, the corrupt are not from planet Mars, they live in our midst and lead powerful institutions. In fact, some of them are serving in government, the opposition and are our kith and kin. They also include us, the opinion makers and civil society who have abandoned our civic duties as watchdogs of government for a few pieces of silver.
Even more troubling is the fact that the opposition and civic organisations have been clamouring for stern action against corruption, whether perceived or real. So, why this noise then around the poor doctor’s dismissal? Could it be that the first casualty of this anti-corruption crusade is somebody we know and respect? While it is fair to castigate the President for inaction on the single sourcing fertilizer scandal or the illegal cancellation of hunting licences by the PS in the Ministry of tourism, this tendency to invoke ‘what aboutism’ as a ruse to escaping accountability is retrogressive.
We will do very well to ignore feeble attempts aimed at clouding independent judgement. In the interest of justice and without fear or favour, let Dr Magwende be subjected before the law.