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Zambia: Cash Dug Out From Ex-Minister's Farm Shocks Nation

Zambia’s investigative units, the Zambia Police, Anti-Corruption Commission and Drug Enforcement Commission recently dug out K 2.1 billion – nearly US$ 466,000 at the exchange rate of US$ 1= K 4,500 – buried in the ground at a farm belonging to former minister, Austin Liato, who was in charge of labour before the September 20 elections which saw a new government voted into power.

Even in an inflationary environment like Zambia, K 2.1 billion is not exactly small change and the discovery of the money, which was buried under concrete in an unfinished house in Mwembeshi, some 50 km west of the capital, Lusaka, has shocked the nation in which the majority of the population are classified as living in poverty.

Zambians on various social networking sites have reacted to these and other disclosures of suspected corrupt activities under the previous administration with a sense of shock and anger.

One Facebook user, Shalala Oliver Sepiso had this to say about the money found at the former minister’s farm:

Zambia Police spokesperson Elizabeth Kanjela (r) displays part of the K 2.1 billion discovered underground at former Minister of Labour Austin Liato's (inset) farm. Photo courtesy of Chibaula Silwamba.

Zambia Police spokesperson Elizabeth Kanjela (r) displays part of the K 2.1 billion discovered underground at former Minister of Labour Austin Liato's (inset) farm. Photo courtesy of Chibaula Silwamba.

‎The cache find on Liato's farm, if it was not stage-managed, has to be lauded has evidence in fighting corruption and no sane Zambian with a keen interest in seeing Zambia develop would say anything against this. However, it does not takeaway the fact that this Government is still witch hunting and persecuting former MMD ministers. Liato is an individual and although I do not believe he is the only one involved in this, he should be treated as a single case and not an indictment against Mwale, Siliya, Musokotwane and everyone else who has been locked up for being found with campaign materials.

Again no sane Man can argue that MMD had many corrupt elements. We all know that they were many but it is unearthing scams like this that will justify the arrests and subsequent prosecutions.Not class acts and insinuations and innuendos.

However, not everyone vilified Liato, a former trade union leader before he joined politics. Limbikani Msamba wrote:

Unless Liato is incredibly stupid (i suspect he aint), he'll be able to easily explain his stash. Of course k2.1bn (around $420,000) is an awful lot of money to the average Zambian, but not unusual for a man in his (former) position. This guy wasnt payin no bills on top of his huge salary as MP & minister, numerous allowances, gratuities, bribes from the chinese (lol), and it would be strange to suggest neither he nor his wife engaged in any form of enterprise. So i say lets chill out folks. All this hype is much ado about nothing, as far as i am concerned. Hoping to be proved wrong ;)

Readers on the Zambian Watchdo website were unforgiving of Liato’s act. Joe Zuze wrote:

Liato suerly is this what you can call witchunt? If the monies were obtained genuinely why burrying it instead of taking it to the bank where it can earn interest. You are the same idiots who were wrongly advising the old man.
For now, no more comments but to urge you to corperate with the law inforncement agencies so your side could be heard fairly. ‘m sure you knew what you were doing.

Hopefully the GBMs, Kambwili, Willie Nsanda (PF government leaders) and the like are learning something.
This is disgusting!

Shimpundu called for the caging of those found wanting:

I am urging all those condeming the team fighting corruption to give them a chance and do their work as there is more to come,and they know what they are doing?how can Ruphia fail to buy property worth $700,000 when a minister can burry so much money under ground?what about the properties he has aquired which you will soon come to know and money he has put outside Zambia?lets open our eyes and support the policeand government on fighting corruption and cage everyone of them found wanting

Lady Gogo came to Liato’s aid with this tongue-in-cheek comment:

C’mon who doesn’t kip a few billions at th house,u guys ar a bunch of haterz.

Some tweeps turned the find into a joke:

@simunza: Correction: These MMD fellas had some serious ambition. The former hon Minister Austin Liato buried K2.1bln on a farm #GetRichOrDieTrying

Another one used a promotional message used by mobile phone company MTN to laugh about the seized money:

@Deejaylbc: RT @lafontee: So apparently MTN Zambia forgot to announce that Austin Liato won their MTN BEEG (BIG) promotion. Twice.

@missbwalya wondered jokingly whether the reason behind hiding the money was witchcraft:

@missbwalya: @luchi7 He probably buried the cash with some charms in the hopes of tripling the amount. Better rates than Euro banks. :-)

Liato has since been suspended by the former ruling party MMD for which he is national executive committee member in charge of labour.

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