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President Hichilema refuses to fire Minister of Foreign Affairs over corruption allegations

President Hakainde Hichilema has refused to fire Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Stanley Kakubo over allegations that he was involved in acts of bribery during his visit to Sinoma Cement recently.

Some people have called for the dismissal of Mr. Kakubo who was pictured receiving a bag from an unidentified Chinese national at Sinoma Cement in Lusaka almost two weeks ago.

At the time of the incident that went viral on social media, Mr Kakubo clarified that he visited Sinoma as a private citizen with a view to ordering some pockets of cement and they gave him a branded calendar and a pen as a souvenir.

At a press conference in Lusaka on Monday, President Hichilema said he had not found Mr. Kakubo guilty after hearing from him.

The Head of State said Mr. Kakubo has assured him that he never got any bribe from Sinoma Cement.

President Hichilema said if there are people with more information linking the minister to bribery, they must report to law enforcement agencies.

“I was questioned when I was away for a few days. I took four days off from your house. While I was away there was an issue with the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Stanley Kakubo). That the Minister of Foreign Affairs got a bribe from Sinoma Cement. I was away. I called the Minister of Finance… Minister of Foreign Affairs sorry . I got in touch with him. What is this I have heard? The first thing I did was not to read what was on social media and continue reading. Was to get in touch with the minister himself. Minister have you seen what is mix, pre-mix. I said continue, continue. He explained. He said he got an envelope with a calendar and a diary inside,” President Hichilema said.

“Maybe he should not have done that (accepting an envelope with a calendar and a diary). It is him talking to him. I said what were you carrying in that envelope? Because it is my duty, I am the supervisor to the vice president, in case you are not aware. I am the supervisor to the ministers. I am the direct supervisor I have to ask and I asked on behalf of the people of Zambia. And he gave me the answer and he said perhaps Mr. President I should not have taken a calendar and a diary. ‘I didn’t get paid anything’. What else am I supposed to do? I must fire him? No. If anyone knows an answer better than he gave me, follow the law. Let’s take the process but on your behalf I took the opportunity to ask him because we are clear none of us should take any bribe for anything. It is very clear but that includes none of you as citizens as you. If anyone has more information let us know because we are accountable to you but you said he got money to bring that hotline or tip somebody,” President Hichilema said.

When the Kakubo-Sinoma incident was fresh, former Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kabala said that it’s unprecedented for a Minister of Foreign Affairs to interact with an ambassador outside his office alone saying it is beneath his office.

In a post reacting to Mr Kakubo’s explanation, Mr Kalaba said that the minister should give a better explanation than the one he has given, wondering how was the Minister buying cement on a holiday and why should a company give a calendar to the Minister in mid-April.

Mr Kalaba also wondered why the Ambassador meet the Minister when he was doing private errands, before adding that he himself was minister of foreign affairs for 4 years, never did he meet Ambassadors privately outside his office, and that even when he met them at foreign affairs, it was in the presence of officials.

“And by the way, Calendars are never delivered in suitcases,” concluded Mr Kalaba’s statement