State House Press Aide Amos Chanda says President Edgar Lungu’s statement that he will not travel abroad this year does not mean he has completely withdrawn from making international trips, but that his travels will be carefully selected.

And Chanda says as President Lungu is inspecting developmental projects, he is not ashamed to tell people to vote for him in 2021, should he be allowed to stand, adding that if the opposition desires, they should also do the same.

President Lungu last week said in order to shame his critics, he was not going to make international trips this year.

But speaking in an interview, following the President’s announcement, Chanda said the Head of State was not going to miss important summits.

“It’s not a complete withdrawal, what it means is that the trips will be carefully selected. Like I know for instance that within two weeks or so, he has an important outing, he will make it. But the travels will be very carefully chosen. As a general rule, he has said he has a strong domestic agenda. That statement is correct in that context, but it’s not a complete withdrawal or suspension of all trips, its not. For instance, in the morning, he told me to clear one foreign trip. That was on the aircraft even before he came down (landed),” Chanda said.

Chanda said the State House advisory team was pushing President Lungu to accept selected foreign trips which he could not afford to miss.

“So the President was stating it as a general rule and he is very strong on that. But we are trying to pull back ourselves and tell him that he must take some of them. Some of the trips we have succeeded [to convince him to travel] but some of them we have failed. As a team in State House, we are still pushing him to accept some of what we think are important trips,” he said.

And Chanda revealed that President Lungu is very frustrated by corruption allegations against him.

“The President wants all the stalled projects to finish before we can start the new ones. This means he will not authorise new projects until we have finished those that have stalled. He wants to give an example using those projects that have gone very well. People want to know how a clinic would be built, for arguments sake, and there are allegations of corruption, for instance, in Muchinga and people are linking those things to him,” Chanda said.

“Its becoming irritating for him because you hear people question and say these flats in Kabulonga [who do they belong to], I actually had to drive there myself to check but I couldn’t verify. So we are trying to put a face to these allegations to understand where they are coming from. So the President needs to familiarise himself with certain things which have not been brought to his attention. It’s a check on his officials, it’s a check on the opposition allegations and to also connect with the people. He wants to put people to shame for the malicious corruption agenda in the newspapers. We can now laugh at them because the President is now overwhelmed with where to start from. We were moved by the crowd that turned out in Masala.

He said the Head of State had also taken an opportunity to ask for 2021 votes.

“The domestic agenda for the President means making sure that government officials who are procrastinating on projects are dealt with. He wants to link the Auditor General’s report to the actual things on the grounds. He is reading the AG’s report very carefully. He says that if there was misplacement of CDF in Mufulura and the Auditor General is questioning where that money has gone, he wants to go on the ground and see whether the MP is involved. As he does that, he is telling the people that should I stand, vote for me; we are not ashamed about that, the opposition can do the same if they want,” Chanda explained.

“However, the President’s major domestic agenda is to put back life into infrastructure development. He believes very strongly that Mr Sata’s vision on infrastructure development remains one of the very best tools for the PF to deliver in line with its pro-poor agenda.”

Asked what the President meant when he said “even if you don’t vote for us we will still be in government”, Chanda said the Head of State was referring to regional voting.

“He was being told by officials when he went into Katuba [Constituency], that ‘people here have resolved to vote you out’, then he said ‘yeah, they voted us out but we are still in government’. He was talking about regional voting. For instance, in every single general election they say ‘we are voting you out’, so in response to that he is saying for example, ‘you Southern Province, you voted us out but we are still here’,” Chanda explained.

“It was mischievous for the opposition to have cut that video clip like that. If they showed it in full, they would have seen actually what he meant. But even if we just take it the way it was put in that circulating video, he was referring to the decidedly regional voting in territories. Those who are saying because we are Tonga, we will vote for a Tonga president; he was referring to those.”

Chanda said President Lungu was impressed with the performance of some opposition members of parliament.

“In those closed circles, which I can now put in pubic domain, the President was saying the most popular candidate somewhere in Mpika is Lozi, and if he continues to work that hard, he might be our candidates in one of those constituencies. He was also saying look at how well the opposition candidate is doing in some parts of Muchinga, in some parts of Northern and Easter Provinces,” said Chanda.