Housing and Infrastructure Minister Ronald Chitotela says Zambians will only appreciate President Edgar Lungu’s hard work after he leaves office.
And Chitotela says contrary to media reports that Zimbabwe will spend less than a billion dollars on the 919km Chirundu-Harare-Beit Bridge road, that country will actually spend $2.8 billion.
Meanwhile, Chitotela says there is nothing government can do to make University of Zambia infrastructure adequate for over 20,000 students.
Speaking on CBC TV’s On Record programme, Tuesday, Chitotela said Zambians only appreciated their leaders once they were no longer in power.
“I know, because I have lived under all the six presidents, in Zambia, when you are in leadership, people say you are a failure, you are not working, you are that [but] after you leave, they start praising ‘he is this, he is a king, he was a saviour’. You remember the time of His Excellency [Kenneth] David Kaunda, people called him names, after that FTJ came, they called him names and he died and people said ‘he brought democracy, he did this and that’, we had Levy, people said ‘Levy sold KCM at $25 million’, we came to president Rupiah Banda, people called him names. The late president Michael Chilufya Sata, people said ‘he has even moved RDA to State House, he is stealing’, after he died people said without Sata Zambia wouldn’t have ‘opened’. Now it is President Lungu, people are saying everything, after he is gone, people will say ‘look how he carried on the vision and without him, these things we are seeing we wouldn’t have seen them’,” Chitotela said.
And Chitotela said Zimbabwe will actually spend $2.8 billion on the Chirundu-Harare-Beit Bridge road.
There was an uproar in Zambia after news broke that Zimbabwe would spend $998million on a 919km yet this country is constructing a 321 km dual carriageway for $1.2 billion.
But Chitotela claimed the $998 million was for a 241Km stretch.
“You know, the fallacy about politics in Zambia is just, the people speaking anyhow, and someone will just say ‘Zambia is the most expensive country in terms of construction’, what we forget is that the constructors are here, they are working in Zimbabwe, in Tanzania, everywhere and I have asked the people ‘give me the road of same specifications like the one we are building and we will see which is cheaper’. Somebody posted on social media, just total misinformation, sorry I am a minister, it is difficult for me to bring in another country because of the diplomatic etiquette, a country in the Southern African region, one of our neighbouring country that they are constructing a road in Chirundu somewhere around Beitbridge at eight hundred and forty something million dollars for dual carriageway, they forgot that the contractor who has won that project is the contractor building Kawambwa-Mporokoso road, China Harbour. The portion they picked is 241Km because from Beitbridge to Chirundu, the road has been divided into three roads, that portion they picked costing that value is 241Km but the road from Beitbridge is costing $2.8 billion!” Chitotela said.
“This is a comparison, we must be honest…I called the contractor, he said here is the contract, the total cost is $2.8bn and somebody chooses to misrepresent facts and says it is eight hundred and something million dollars, yes, we know they had an agenda which they wanted to achieve. It is political, it is to paint the PF government untrustworthy in the eyes of the right thinking Zambians. Perception is stronger than reality…those of us who were schooled in politics by Michael Sata know that propaganda if you keep talking about it and someone has not answered, it sticks. Let’s have morality and decency in the way we do politics.”
He said government intended to commission the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway by 2021.
“This year, you’ll see the contractors mobilising on four slots. There is beginning from Ndola, from Luanshya junction, in Kapiri and from here. So you will see a lot of construction activities because we want by the end of 2020 or beginning 2021, that road must be commissioned for public use,” he said.
Chitotela asked those making corruption allegations to consider other people’s reputations.
“Let’s bear in mind that those people we accuse and call names have got families, reputation, children and churches where they go to. You can’t just stand up and say ‘hule, hule’, no. you must have some decency and credibility.
If it was true that government can’t manage resources, how are we managing to implement all these programmes?” he asked.
“If you bring those who died 10 years ago and take them to Burma road will they believe? But then because somebody wants to ascend to power by whatever means, they know they when we say ‘PF is not performing, Zambians are seeing. The only thing they can’t see whether we accuse them wrongly or right is to say they are thieves’ and you know, because it is a perception which we learnt from the late president, other weaker souls will begin believing that it is true. But lies have short legs.”
Meanwhile, Chitotela said there was nothing government could do to make UNZA infrastructure adequate for over 20,000 students.
“I always argue with my colleagues who say ‘you can’t start building more universities, you have failed to run the University of Zambia’, I say colleagues, let us apply the basic principles of supply and demand. The time University of Zambia was built, how many were we in Zambia? Between 3.5 to 4 million citizens and it was built for 3,000 students. Today, University of Zambia is taking in in excess of 20,000, what social amenities can accommodate such kinds of people? Even if you were to do a complete overhaul of the sewer system within six months, it begins chocking. Even if you were to do the water system, within six months, the water system will begin chocking. The solution and the answer lies into decongesting University of Zambia by creating other campuses across Zambia then University of Zambia becomes the centre of excellence. Those who want to do teaching degrees they must go to a university in Luapula or Western Province and then the University of Zambia becomes a centre of excellence then you can talk about decongesting and modernising the University of Zambia and I am grateful to the positivity and determination of [the] PF leadership because detractors will always be there but we need to remain focussed, eyes on the ball,” said Chitotela.