Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) president Nevers Mumba says it is possible that President Edgar Lungu is publicly being hostile towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because the institution has already decided to pull back.

And Mumba says he will soon prove that Zambia’s external debt is exactly as Finance Minister Felix Mutati announced to Parliament in his state of the economy speech before retracting it recently.

At a press conference yesterday, President Lungu said the IMF could go if they thought he had crossed the line.

“I don’t think the IMF would like this country to go into flames, I don’t think any investor would like to see this country destroyed, the measures that we have put in place are intended to safeguard the IMF program if it comes to be but for the IMF to say ‘Lungu has gone out of the way’, I will refer them to Article 31 of the Constitution which gives me that power. Everything we do, we consult and I want to be remembered for just sticking to the law and doing things within the expectations of the people so IMF is they want to go because of this, they can go and I am saying this openly, if IMF thinks we have gone beyond the norms of good governance and democracy, they are free to go,” said President Lungu.

“We cannot sacrifice the Zambian people at the altar of economic expediency. What are we investing for? We invest the money today and tomorrow they burn the money up? No, as long as the people are safe, the IMF, their programme will be safe but if the people are not safe and infrastructure is being burnt left right and centre, we have to spend money to build those markets again, we have to spend money to put the electricity pylons, this is what the IMF would like? I am sure the IMF would not like that kind of thing. The IMF would like to come into a country which is stable, growing, and where they are sure that their money or programmes will yield desired results. But I have made it very clear that if they think I have gone astray, let them go.”

But in an interview with News Diggers! yesterday, Mumba said it was possible that the IMF had opted to put talks on hold for the Head of the State to rebuke them in the manner he did.

He said he was shocked that the President would utter such words when all along, his Minister of Finance Felix Mutati had been soliciting for support from the institution.

“We don’t know why the President was that hostile to IMF today which is the first time I have seen him that hostile, one can only presume maybe that he is getting some information that the IMF are re-thinking or even thinking about maybe waiting a little bit before releasing the money. I really don’t know why he has been that aggressive against them today. I don’t know why he had to come out like that because I thought he is supposed to be reconciliatory so that he gives an opportunity to his Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs to manage this difficult relationship but I also got the impression that maybe IMF has suspended its aid because really, why was he talking like that?” Mumba wondered.

He said it was possible that the IMF were raising issues of governance already.

“I am not disappointed, I am just surprised that he sounded like that because I thought they were talking and in good books and trying to make progress but then when he talks like that, he is making us think that maybe there is a problem that maybe they [IMF] are asking questions, that’s what I think and I could be wrong but I just think it was very unusual for the Head of State to use that language that ‘they can go’, because this is thing is just like if someone has got a question about governance, you answer them, you don’t have to threaten with them with such utterances. So that’s all I can say. Really, I cannot say too much because I don’t really know why he said what he said, the only thing I know is that we gave a letter to the IMF,” Mumba said.

“But our letter went and the IMF received it we even made it available to the media including Diggers! as well so basically that’s all I can say. I am still asking the IMF to consider or interrogate the rule of law before they dish out the money, our argument has been that if it’s not dealt with, their money will be unsafe because if there is no opposition in the country then there will be no one to defend their money so we hope that IMF have listened to the Presidents’ address.”

Meanwhile, Mumba insisted that Zambia’s external debt was exactly as Mutati announced to Parliament in his state of the economy speech recently.

“My team that is doing research just got back to me yesterday that the debt is actually more complex than we thought and they asked me for more time so I am going to have a meeting with them to discuss the information they have gathered as to how much we really owe. I am not able to give you that information today but yesterday they told me that they are making progress. Suffice to say that ahead of the 2015 Presidential by-elections, I had announced and predicted that our national debt both foreign and local debt would reach slightly over $13 billion by the end of 2015. Looking at the numbers that were quoted by Mr Mutati in Parliament of $17.2 billion, that figure is not too far away from our projection for 2017 both local and foreign debt,” Mumba said.

And Mumba disclosed that the $7.2 billion which the Ministry of Finance was claiming to be the total money owed did not include the money that the country owed the Chinese.

“We are also aware that the $7.2 billion that we are now calling as the national debt does not include the Chinese debt which is in the excess of the $7.2 billion in itself. So we understand that Mr Mutati had actually read the right figure and we are able to put on paper to be able to confirm that fact,” said Mumba.