In this audio, President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda says the options of staying or resigning are in Lucky Mulusa’s hands, but notes that there is no easy way out for him.
Chanda said this in an interview when he was asked if it was true that President Lungu asked his National Planning and Development Minister to resign for likening the newly acquired fire trucks to wheelbarrows.
“On Honourable Mulusa, I can confirm that he had a meeting with the President. But I do not know the full details of what was discussed. If that matter was discussed and Honourable Mulusa told a newspaper that he was asked to resign, then all options are in his hands. The meeting took place and that matter was discussed, so in the light of what Her Honour the Vice-President said in Parliament, we would not want to make any comments that may be prejudicial to that process if it takes place. The Vice President said the case will be subjected to the ministerial code of conduct,” Chanda explained.
He said it was expected for Mulusa to resign if he chose not to recant his statement.
“But given what I know about presidential discussions between the President and his ministers, I am just now assuming that that was discussed; if a request was made for him to resign, and he did not resign, I can only presume two issues. Either he regrets what he said, or the matter was resolved amicably, and therefore it may have ended there. But if it goes to the media, Honourable Mulusa has two options; to stick to his words, which makes his position extremely difficult… The burden is on him to do what he was asked to do. All those options are in his hands. He is the one in the video and he discussed with the President. I do not know the terms under which this issue was discussed; whether it was in confidence, whether he was allowed to speak out in public,” he said.
“So once that discussion has been made [and you are told], ‘you resigns’ that is from the Head of State, you have two options; to tell him that ‘look, I will not be resigning because I have recanted what I said or to go out and say ‘I have been asked to resign’ and you resign.”
Chanda said he felt sorry for Mulusa over the position he found himself in.
“I sympathise with the position that he is in. I can’t see an easy way out of it, especially in light of what the Vice-President said in Parliament. If I were him, I would not discuss it with the media that I was asked to resign. If I were him and the president asked me to resign, immediately I am announcing to you that I was told to resign, I would be resigning actually. I cannot tell you that I have been asked to resign and then stay,” Chanda said.
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When asked what collective Cabinet responsibility Mulusa breached when Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale had told parliament that Cabinet was not involved in the procurement process of fire tenders, Chanda said Cabinet approved the decision under late Michael Sata’s reign.
“I can confirm to you that Cabinet approved the procurement of fire tenders under the chairmanship of His Excellency president Michael Sata. It approved the purchase, but what Cabinet does not do, according to what Honourable Vincent Mwale said, is to sit and go through the nitty-gritty. But the procurement was approved in principle and that collectively responsibility still stands. But Cabinet does not say, ‘it’s these five fire tenders’ it does not do that. It approves the principle. President Sata gave a presidential decree on the pronouncement that ‘property is being lost, and I want a fire tender in each of the 102 districts’ at that time. So when that was done, the Secretary to the Cabinet deduced that pronouncement into a CAB (Cabinet) memo and Cabinet approved the purchase of fire tenders,” Chanda said.
“So if Honourable Mulusa is being pinned against collective responsibility, it is that. He may not have been a minister, but its institutional memory that covers all Cabinet ministers. Those Cabinet documents, their lifespan is 25 years, so that decision is within the 25-year-rule of secrecy. So Honourable Mulusa may have breached that decision of Cabinet.”
He went further to explain that former Attorney General Mumba Malila objected to Cabinet’s proposal to single source the procurement of fire tenders.
“I can add that a British company was single sourced, following president Sata’s decision, to provide the same number of fire tenders at US$66 million. The learned Attorney General then Mumba Malila State Counsel said ‘that figure was too much, it will raise eyebrows’. He said ‘we are better off subjecting this huge procurement to public tender’. And that is how the delay in the procurement of fire tenders was done. So when the company that was bidding for US$66 million dollars began to revise their figurs and it came down to US$56 million, the learned Attorney General still was of the view that a tender of this magnitude must be done through competitive bidding,” said Chanda.
“I can tell you that this is Albion Limited of England, which was the second best bidder in the current controversial fire tenders. It was at US$49.7 million when GrandView was at US$42 million. So in examining this, you can see that these fire tenders if they were purchased by single sourcing, they would have been at US$66 million. I must state that what I am giving you are cold facts, I wouldn’t take any risk to give you these facts with figures if I had not seen them.”