Reports monitored here say a former Minister of Defence, now a Member of Parliament or MP in the southern African nation of Zambia, George Mpombo has been sentenced to prison for 60 days after he issued a check on an insufficiently funded bank account. This was after he resigned his portfolio as a defence minister when his USD2, 000 check bounced last December.
Mr Mpombo, represents Kafulafuta constituency for the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy. He served under the late President Levy Mwanawasa, as well as his successor Rupia Banda- meaning he is well connected. But he was convicted by a local Magistrate, who also fined him US800. Last week, this paper reported another account of how a former South African Police Chief was given a 15-year jail sentence for receiving a bribe.
Jackie Selebi, who is also a former President of the ruling ANC Youth League, representative of South Africa at the United Nations and a close ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki is the most senior government official to be convicted by a court in that country in July for receiving a bribe from a convicted drug dealer, Glenn Aglioti. Selebi is said to have received 1.2m Rand (USD156, 000) from the drug dealer. Both cases are distinct and involved two types of officials of government-a law maker and a law enforcement chief. Selibi, like Mpombo was also well connected.
We strongly believe that the action against the sitting lawmaker was instituted to serve as a deterrent that nobody is above the law in that southern African nation just as in the case of the South African police Chief. But here it is a different ball game, many questions abounds as to whether Liberia will ever immolate such worthy examples in the fight against corruption and the enforcement of the rule of law, not only for the ordinary citizen but for sitting government officials.
Firstly, officials accused of graft here are often recycled or asked to go and sin no more. Some are reshuffled and given more lucrative positions like in the case of the former Deputy Central Bank Governor Ethel Davis, now Liberia’s Ambassador designate to Germany and Mr. Richard Fallah former Deputy Director of the General Services agency, now an advisor at the Ministry of State. Others are recalled and reinstated as in the case of Deputy Police Director for Operations, Al Karley who was linked to the disappearance of several gallons of petroleum products meant for police operation.
This is why we at the New Dawn will continue to welcome as very practical in the current administration the issue of corruption and sectionalism raised by this year’s National Independence Day Orator, Monsignor Robert Tikpor on July 26. That is why we will also continue to say that in our case the fight against corruption may never be a success owning to the fact that there are Liberians who are more Liberians than others. While, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf may continue to make strong pronouncements denouncing corruption in all its forms, the lack of concrete steps in setting an example on some of her senior government officials rendered her declared war on corruption a losing battle.
Secondly, the issue of the Zambian lawmaker is quite the opposite here. Take for instance the recent alleged act of “gangsterism” displayed by Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative Tokpa Mulbah who allegedly ordered the flogging of Police Patrolman Beah when the officer attempted to enforce the law. The Deputy Speaker evaded arrested hiding under the canopy of a senior government official, suggesting that he is above the law, an example that worth merited condemnation from every well meaning Liberian.
We believe that the two examples cited earlier in the case of the Zambia MP and the former South African Police Chief demonstrate the fight against corruption and a respect for the rule of law. If these examples can be followed we believe they are going to serve as deterrents for other officials of government, until then we remain miles away from departing from the past.