Minister of Housing Ronald Chitotela and his Home Affairs counterpart Stephen Kampyongo have swooped in to defend President Edgar Lungu’s blunder during a PF fundraising dinner in Ndola following massive backlash.

On Saturday, President Lungu made a brief speech at the event saying “long speeches will come in 2021 when it was time to justify re-election”.

But in those few words came the infamous Bemba proverb “ubomba mwibala alila mwibala”, commonly used to justify pilferage, as it loosely translates “he who works in the cornfield eats what is in the cornfield” which has sparked widespread condemnation on the Head of State with NDC consultant Chishimba Kambwili calling for impeachment.

However, speaking to journalists at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka yesterday, Chitotela said some people with a hidden agenda were trying to misconstrue his boss’ statement.

“As you may be aware, I am a specialist in Bemba proverbs. Ati ubomba mwibala alya mwibala. I want to speak to you the media to carry the story as it was said. The issue of just picking a statement then you cut and paste that, it doesn’t help. The statement in its full context meant ‘you the provincial party, the money we are receiving from the donors to construct the infrastructure for provincial party administration, if you have not factored in the management in that 10 per cent, don’t eat the money that is meant for the project. Of course we appreciate that as we implement the project, you need to be paid, you need to eat but you should factor in a contingency of 10 per cent so that as you are implementing, in that 10 per cent you should be able to get a leeway for implementing that project because the Bemba says ‘ubomba mwibala alya mwibala’, as you are implementing the project, you need to be paid out of the 10 per cent contingency not within the amount of the implementation of the project and he had actually said it in Bemba,” Chitotela said.

“But because of the hidden agenda, some people choose to cut this and that and just pick ubomba mwibala alya mwibala without explaining in the context it was said. The President was very categorical, even warning those that have misapplied the drilling of boreholes on the Copperbelt…those of you who attended, those media houses who were there will be able to justify that. When you are employed, Jackeline Tembo, at the end of the month ZNBC must pay you a salary, when you are employed from Muvi TV, at the end of the month after you have worked, you need to be paid, you shouldn’t be paid out of the capital but out of the profit that you are making so that the institution does not grind to a halt, that’s what the boss said. He clearly stated, don’t eat the seed, mwikalyembuto iyo. Create a contingency of 10 per cent and you should be able to reward yourself out of the works that you will be doing.”

He asked PF-controlled social media platform Smart Eagles to publish President Lungu’s full address saying that could help people understand the context.

“And how I wished Smart Eagles you can play the whole statement, circulate it on social media so that Zambians are able to listen and make a proper judgement than the malice that has been spreading out there,” said Chitotela.

And Kampyongo said Zambians had become so petty at the expense of development.

“You our colleagues from the media should help Zambia avoid being so petty, we have a lot of work to do. I was so shocked with the debate that this matter has generated. The president was very categorical, like he said, that was a Bemba proverb he was using to warn people not to use money which they are not entitled to. So basically he was saying even if you work on a farm, you should only benefit from that which is entitled to you, you don’t get what is not entitled to you just because you are the one working in the farm.

And he was very clear that if you do, you will be arrested. He was emphasising the point that the finances which we generated from the fundraising were to be used prudently and for the project and that nothing should be wasted and that is why he gave a proviso should they want to spend anything, it must be structured in the 10 per cent which the minister was alluding to. So to try and be mischievous, he is very categorical, the President was holding a workshop a few days ago of all of us ministers and controlling officers talking about the prudent management of public finance. How can he today turn around and say go and dip?” asked Kampyongo.

“So the bottom line is that let’s analyse serious matters as they are because the message was very clear and those of us who use the language, who are Bembas, and we use these applications depending on the situation, feel extremely embarrassed by the way the interpretation is being done and I think people should focus on major things that add value to the lives of the Zambian people.”