Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo says President Edgar Lungu, his ministers and technocrats must stand ready to personally pay back debt they are illegally contracting.

On Friday, Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya told critics that government had no reason to lie over the debt situation.

“What interest would we have to lie? To serve who? It’s all in the interest of the country, isn’t it? It is in the interest of all of us. If that is not done, is it only the government that would suffer? It is the people of Zambia and we have a responsibility to the people of Zambia as an elected government and as such the best way for us to work is to be truthful, transparent and be as clear as possible…including the very tough austerity measures we took in the last two years,” said Siliya.

But responding to a press query, Sunday, Tembo said he believed Zambia’s external debt was much more than the $8.7 billion government was letting on.

“As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), we are concerned that the PF government is not taking our country’s ballooning debt situation seriously, and they’re oblivious to the repurcations of a potential national debt default. The Bloomberg News article that the yields on Zambia’s Eurobonds nose-dived during the first quarter of 2018, on investor concerns that Zambia is probably doing a Mozambique on them by hiding some national debt, actually adds credence to our long held position that the PF government has been understating the actual indebtedness of this country,” Tembo stated.

“As Patriots for Economic Progress, we are further alarmed that the PF government is in a habit of contracting national debt illegally, without following the public financial laws and procedures, which require that any contracting of national debt must be approved by Parliament. Such brazen contempt of the established laws of this Republic on national borrowing, may actually put certain government officials, such as the Minister of Finance, in trouble when there’s a change of government, as the nation has the right to disown such illegally contracted debt as not belonging to the Republic of Zambia, but to the respective individuals that contracted it. Therefore, some government officials may find themselves shouldering some of this debt in their individual capacities, due to their failure to follow proper procedure and get Parliamentary authority when contracting national debt.”

He stated that Zambia was in a debt trap, urging President Lungu and his ministers to be ready to pay back the debt they were procuring.

“As Patriots for Economic Progress, we strongly believe that our total national debt is standing at about $40 billion, made up of (I) Domestic Debt of about $4bn in the form of Government Bonds, Treasury Bills and other Government local financial instruments, that for all intents and purposes, Zambia is now in a debt (ii) External Debt of about $9 billion, such as the Eurobonds and other cash disbursed foreign debt Instruments and (iii) Project Finance Debt of about $28 billion, made up of foreign financing of local infrastructure projects such as the $2,3bn lower Kafue Gorge expansion project, $2bn Serenje-Chipata railline, $500m KKIA expansion project, $500m Copperbelt International Airport project etc. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Zambia is currently in a debt trap as it is unlikely that we have the economic capacity to repay all these loans as and when they fall due,” stated Tembo.

“As Patriots for Economic Progress, we wish to remind the PF government that the citizens of this Republic have a right to disown the ballooning national debt which is being contracted without the express authority of Parliament, as per law established. Therefore, President Lungu and his respective Ministers and Technocrats must stand ready to repay this illegally contracted debt in their individual capacities once they leave office.”