In this audio, Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says President Edgar Lungu has received many gifts from China which he has not declared because there is no law that compels him to do so.
Siliya told BBC in an interview that there was nothing wrong with receiving a gift from the King of Swaziland, adding that even President Lungu had given a piece of land to the King of Saudi Arabia.
The minister stressed that the culture of a President receiving gifts would not not end anytime soon.
On insinuations that President Lungu received the land as gratification for the contracts which Inyasti Limited had in the construction industry in Zambia, Siliya failed to give a categorical answer, saying such allegations were not odd.
Below is a verbatim of the interview:
BBC: I wanted confirmation on the piece of land
Siliya: Yes, it is through the King that he was given a piece of land on that estate, yes, through the King of Swaziland. It is very normal practice. We, ourselves as Zambia have given a piece of land to the King of Saudi Arabia, it is very normal practice that any government or any King can decide what they think is the gift befitting of a visiting high-level dignitary. And in this country there is no law that provides that he has to declare a gift given to him. But as of now, every President, not just President Lungu but the other five presidents before him have been gifted various gifts in various amounts. President Kaunda, the first President was actually gifted houses in Namibia.
BBC: Part of the reporting around this is the allegations that he is going to build a mansion worth $3.9 million. What can you tell us of this?
Siliya: He has not parted with any money and neither has government. So that, at least I can confirm to you. I wish to believe that some people have gone ahead and they have drawn some plans because maybe they are hoping that they can present them to him and hope that they can talk him into building. But as at now, he has built nothing, all he has is a piece of land that was gifted to him by the King of Swaziland.
BBC: Why does the President think people are making a fuss out of this?
Siliya: People will try to side track us. First they started with corruption, then they have gone to ‘no, President Lungu this…’, then they have moved to his nationality. There are people who think that the only way to be relevant in the political arena in this country is to continue to talk about the President in person. What has happened, the president being gifted land is nothing new and it will not end now.
BBC: It has been alleged that the former owner of this plot of land gifted to the President is Inyasti Properties and we know that Inyasti Properties is a major company in Zambia involved in road construction and civil engineering there, doesn’t this cast a shadow on this gift?
Siliya: We have many companies in Zambia that are doing road construction. Chinese companies, European companies, South African companies. We have had this debate that the only reason all these other companies, especially Chinese companies are being given contracts is because they must be giving gifts, this is a usual debate in this country and I think that it is being perpetrated by very few people who totally refuse to believe that this government is committed to wanting to develop this country very quickly.
BBC: But you have not dismissed the suggestion that this is land that belonged to a company that has won major contracts in Zambia.
But these are not new allegations. Every time a company gets a contract in Zambia, trust me, the discourse is always around somebody must be corrupt. Next time, he will go to South Africa and he is gifted a gift, are we going to say that because a lot of South Africans have businesses in Zambia? He goes to China so often, there are a lot of Chinese companies in Zambia, is it because when he goes to China he is not gifted? He is gifted a lot of gifts in China so to me, I don’t think that that argument goes at all.
Take a listen: