Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela says government has not approved any budget proposal for the construction of a new State House and any minister who makes such a statement would be speculating.

On Sunday, his Works and Supply counterpart Matthew Nkhuwa told a PF interactive forum that government would spend US$20 million (around K200 million) to erect a new State House.

“The first day that I was appointed as minister, I was taken round by the Secretary to Cabinet to look at the state of State House. I come from the construction industry and I understand construction and that State House has got serious cracks. If there was an earthquake, what will happen will be disastrous [because] that thing can just crumble and at the end of the day, we could be held responsible for killing the occupants of that place because it’s our responsibility to make sure that the buildings are in a habitable state,” Nkhuwa said.
He said the matter was an urgent one and he estimated that it would cost around $20 million.

“But it’s something that we must do now; we can’t keep on postponing it because if anything happens, the people of Zambia are going to cry that what are we people doing in the Ministry of Works and Supply by allowing a building like that to collapse on the Head of State or the other occupants, indeed. So, it’s a matter of urgency,” said Nkhuwa.

“We didn’t want to involve the President and if anything, the President was probably hearing it the first time that it came out of Parliament because we never involved him at all [because] we thought we are duty bound to look at it and we made a decision. That State House is a danger to the people that are sitting there and I think that the value of a human being, regardless, is higher than the price we can pay to build another State House…It is a risk as it is to have that State House! It’s going to be a modern State House and we are looking in the range of US$20 million, according to the estimates that came from the parliamentary committee in the report. The location; we haven’t come up with the location. [But] we have agreed and it’s been passed it Parliament and so we are going to build.”

But in an interview with News Diggers yesterday, Chitotela said government had not started looking at the cost that will be involved in the project.

“As you may be aware, the committee of parliament just recommended to Parliament last week and government has not started to look at the budget. Even when I debated in Parliament I said we agree and we have accepted the recommendation of the committee because it was urging government to build one and I said yes it is also a concern of government,” Chitotela said.

“So it will be premature for any Minister to issue a statement regarding figures or anything. And yes we have accepted the recommendation of the committee of parliament on works and the chairperson of that committee is Honorable Douglas Syakalima. So we have accepted, we will look at the pros and cons and then we shall revert back to the Zambian people through the parliamentary budget. We will once Cabinet adopts the report of the committee. But representing government as Minister for Housing and Infrastructure, we have accepted the recommendation. I have seen this circulating on sectors of the media and am wondering where people are getting such information.”

Chitotela said that once the budget was agreed upon, it would be taken to Parliament for approval.

“You know people want to create politics just to start speculating. So it is not a secret, it is not a State House for President [Edgar] Lungu or a PF State House, it is a Zambian State House. You know the existing State House was built in 1938, so once the budget is agreed upon, we will go to Parliament and if Parliament approves as recommended by the committee for transport, works supply and communication, it will be a public thing for the Zambian people. So for now anybody giving statements they are just speculating,” said Chitotela.