Minister of National Development Planning Alexander Chiteme says people should interpret President Edgar Lungu’s travel to South Africa as a trip for medical checkups or a private holiday because he did not go there to work.

Lusaka’s Hot FM radio yesterday ignited a debates on why the Head of State went to South Africa unannounced, when he told the nation last month that he would not make international trips this year.

The presenters Hope Chishala, Mutale mwanza and DJ Flava, wondered why State House did not announce the President’s trip to South Africa. Citizens then started calling in to condemn the President’s announcement movements.

But Chiteme who was apparently listening in, could not help but call in to put the record ‘straight’.

The Minister however only succeeded to add speculation to the President’s agenda in South Africa, as he dismissed the public perception that the Head of State went on a working trip, as claimed by the Zambian High Commission in that country.

“Who said the President has gone on a working visit to South Africa? People go to South Africa for medical check ups, they travel to South Africa on a private holiday. If it was a working holiday or work visit, Amos Chanda always announces that the President is going to be out of the country for so many days,” Chiteme rattled.

But the radio presenters took him on, asking “So how should we interpret this trip?” to which Chiteme responded, “That maybe he went for medical checkups or maybe he went for a private visit…so you want when the president goes for a personal holiday he should say, “Oh now I have gone for a personal holiday in South Africa?'”

He added: “When the President is going for work, you will know. Amos will say ‘the President has gone to work in South Africa’. The President went to Kazungula, it was announced, the President went to Kazungula with two other Heads of State, it was announced…”

When reminded that President Lungu had vowed not to travel this year, but he was already on his third trip after his declaration, Chiteme said the trip to Kigali was prearranged.

“That trip to Kigali was a prearranged trip. So you wouldn’t expect that the President was going to cancel a prearranged engagement because of a pronouncement that he made. So all those prearranged travels like the one to Kigali, that was arranged before he made the declaration, it needed to be undertaken and going forward, you saw him send the Vice-President to the African Union, why didn’t people come out to be open and applaud him for that? Just because he has gone to South Africa for a private visit or perhaps for medical check up, you want to say ‘the President…’, come on guys, let’s be serious,” he said.

The presenters then asked him to explain what was wrong with announcing the President trip for medical check ups.

“Should we say even when the President goes that he has got a medical check up, we should be telling people that he has gone for a medical check up? The three of you there are public figures. Flava, when were you last in South Africa?”

Flava responded, “December”, but show co-host Mutale Mwanza reminded him that she was not an elected public figure.

“As famous as you are, then you should have said that there are different categories of public figure because the way I see it, you are a public figure,” said Chiteme.

Just before cutting the line, Chiteme said, “In conclusion, the President made a pronouncement and the pronouncement is going to be the way forward. Prior commitments are going to be fulfilled but going forward, no more travels.”

Presenter Hope insisted on Chiteme that it would be unrealistic for him to say there would be no more trips, but the call ended.