Not a pretty picture.

Author:Geloo, Zarina
Position:Around Africa: Zambia - Brief Article

When President Mwanawasa set up a Task Force to investigate "the plunder" of the country's resources by the last government, there was jubilation in the country. Now people are not so sure.

Riding high on a populist wave soon after his election on 27 December 2001, President Levy Mwanawasa called a special session of parliament and revealed the existence of a foreign-based bank account called the Zambia Transoverseas Operational Accounts (ZAMTROP) used, the president alleged, by Zambia's secret service and through which the former government and its officials "plundered" the country's resources.

In doing this, Mwanawasa told the MPs, he had given parliament the "ammunition" to lift former President Frederick Chiluba's immunity and recover all that he had allegedly "plundered".

Mwanawasa's Task Force comprised of officers from the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), the police and the Anti Corruption Commission. They were to collect, evaluate, process and investigate all suspected criminal conduct relating to serious mismanagement of public resources in the past 10 years, including suspected corruption and abuse of office, embezzlement of public funds, theft of public property and money laundering.

There was a lot of zeal. Chiluba's immunity was duly lifted (he is still contesting it in court). Some former officials were imprisoned for theft, and property suspected to have been acquired through state funds, were seized.

But now, the Task Force appears to have lost all steam and people accuse it of "picking on Chiluba and his allies". Parliament has even joined in, condemning the Task Force as being "toothless" and not doing a thorough job.

No wonder, Mwanawasa tried to distance himself from the Task Force in his New Year's address when he accused it of failing in its mandate. He then appointed Mark Chona, a former civil servant, to kick-start its operations.

In a knee jerk response, the Task Force has seized two houses belonging to two officials who worked in Chiluba's inner sanctum.

Five top civil servants and two former chief executives of a state-owned bank have also been arrested and charged with 59 counts of theft.

But this notwithstanding, the Task force has been unable to unravel the full extent of government excesses, due to inadequate resources and manpower. The Auditor General's (AG)...

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