Kelvin Bwalya Fube (KBF) says Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe’s position that US$1.2 billion is not the actual cost for the construction of the Lusaka – Ndola Dual carriageway makes logical sense.
And KBF has expressed concern that President Edgar Lungu was given inaccurate figures when launched the Lusaka-Ndola Road project.
Speaking to News Diggers in an interview, KBF wondered how two ministers representing the same Cabinet could come up with contradicting figures for the same project.
“First of all they are MPs in the same House, they are the ones who appropriate the budget, there should be an agreement between themselves before they come to Cabinet. These are the people who are supposed to be helping the President, they should not confuse the President. they should tell the President the truth, the President was cutting ribbons over this road to ensure that the road is going to be done. But when the facts are given, the President is not responsible for those facts, it’s the minister. I am glad to tell you that honourable [Ronald] Chitotela is not the one who funds the roads, it’s the Minister of Finance. So if she says she can do it in $700 million, she won’t pay him that amount of money. That’s the honest truth, so the official position is what Minister of Finance has said. It can’t cross that much and it shouldn’t,” KBF said.
“The new Minister of Finance is a mother, she is looking at the nation and crying. I am bound to believe what the Minister of Finance is saying. There is road from Beitbridge in South Africa running trough Zimbabwe right up to Chirundu, almost the same distance if not more. There is a road from Mombasa to Nairobi, which is longer a distance than from Lusaka to Kitwe or Ndola. We have compared the prices of these two roads, the one being done from South Africa to Chirundu and the one from Mombasa to Nairobi, the distances are the same, this is Africa and the terrain is almost the same. None of those are crossing over $700 million, so 354 kilo meters into the Copperbelt, you want me to believe that that road should cost more? It doesn’t make sense. Whether you put hotels, you put filling stations on that road it doesn’t matter.”
And KBF wondered why the government wanted to build hostels on a road that passes through towns.
“We don’t need hotels on this road. I used to have my parents in Mufulira town, I would go from 05:00 hours in the morning here and get to Mufulira at 08:00 hours in the morning. I would visit for the whole day, 16:00 hours I would start off and be here in Lusaka by 20 to 21:00 hours. I have visited Mufullira, I don’t need to sleep on this road. Why do I need hotels on this road? Who wants hotels on this road? Put up filling stations we need them! But who needs to sleep at the filing station? The hotel, the clinics, they are not necessary. It’s too short a distance and what’s more, there are towns in between. From here there is Chisamba first of all, there is Chibombo, Kabwe…how many towns are those? We already have three districts in between, why do you need a hotel? From Kabwe to Kapiri it’s 50 kilometers, why do you need a hotel? From Kapiri to Ndola it’s 105 kilometers , why do you need a hotel?” KBF asked.
“There is not logic in that, there is no argument, no logical reason why we should have hotels on that road. You are not going to Nakonde, no. If you go to North Western Province, from Solwezi to Mwinilunga it’s 400 plus kilometers distance, it’s longer than this route (Lusaka-Ndola), have you seen a hotel on that road? From Solwezi to Zambezi have you seen a hotel? What logical reason do we need a hotel for in an urban area? If you put hotels in those areas I would probably understand. But on this [Lusaka-Ndola) road I can drive for three to four hours and I am there, why should I sleep? So, the arguments that are being given by Honourable Chitotela cannot be sustained, that is why I am more likely to believe Honouorable Mwanakatwe.”
KBF said if Chitotela insists that US$1.2 billion is spent on the project, he will have to know where to find the extra money.
“Let him argue but no one is going to give him the money, the Minister of Finance is the final authority on finances. She will not give him the money. Honourable Chitotela has got his arguments but we are the tax payers and we are saying if the Minister of Finance is saving us money then let us save that money and use that money for something else . And I am happy she has put her foot down. It’s party of those austerity measures that the President has announced. If AVIC is the one who is saying it’s $1.2 million, change the contractor. That’s my view, we don’t need AVIC to do everything. I don’t even see the fight here, all I see it that we were given a price which is not justified. And whatever justification the Minister of Infrastructure has tried to put up, we have shot it down logically, it doesn’t make sense,” said KBF.