PF deputy media director Antonio Mwanza says a lot of contracts are awarded to Chinese companies because they have a lot of money to pump in the projects than what Zambians can afford.

And Mwanza argues that the PF government has not introduced any new taxes to the Zambian people.

He said this when he featured on Hot FM’s ‘Hot Seat’ programme yesterday.

And speaking when she called in during the programme, PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri said once the list of those who benefitted from the loan scheme is published, the beneficiaries should be named and shamed as most of them were from the well-to-do families.

“The quality of roads is being tested by the Economics Association of Zambia. It’s an independent institution comprising of very educated and experienced engineers in various fields. And the quality of the roads is acceptable quality as per standard of the Zambian government and as per standard of the SADC region. In terms of the Chinese taking over the investments, I have always told people that it is important to be very honest with ourselves. All the companies that are given contracts are graded, according to the skilled labour that they have, they are graded, according to the equipment that they have, and according to the technology and the capacity that they have. If, for instance, the Ndola-Lusaka dual carriageway, that project will cost not less than US $900 million. The Chinese company that has agreed to deal with that has already agreed to pump their own money – US $400 million under the Public Private Partnership,” Mwanza narrated.

He said Zambia is among the 3rd cheapest countries in terms of constructing roads in the region.

“Which Zambian company today can produce US $400 million? There is no single Zambian company that has got US $400 million to pump in a project! So, if you look at all these major projects that are being done, it requires a lot of money. And people don’t say that, Zambia is amongst the 3rd cheapest countries to construct a road. They can try Zimbabwe, they can try Botswana and they can compare. Zambia is the 3rd cheapest in the southern region in terms of construction of roads. So, if you look at the size of these projects, you will realise that you need a lot of capital injection; your own money that you have to pump in before the project takes off. And we don’t have local companies that have that kind of money to inject in a project. It has to go without saying that, first of all, we need to look at capacity,” Mwanza added.

He also said a Chinese contractor once given a contract can work at night just to finish the works on time, while the Zambian contractor once given a down payment for a project abandons the works.

“The attitude also matters. The Chinese investors, for instance, when you give them a project, they will do it on time. They will even be working at night, they will be knocking off at 21:00hrs, but some of our own investors here, once you give them a down payment, they disappear! They go and buy a Range Rover, they go, they abandon the site, the abandon the workers! The money which is supposed to be used to buy materials they use it to go clubbing! So, that attitude also, we must deal with it, and we must accept that when we have given these projects to the Chinese, in no time they clear the works. So, we need to learn the good practices from the Chinese,” Mwanza insisted.

And Mwanza said the PF government has not introduced any new tax to the Zambian people.

“In terms of taxes, this is another story, which the opposition wants to use, but it doesn’t work because the facts are that one; there is no new tax that the Patriotic Front has introduced. If you talk about the 30 ngwee [Internet tariff], it has been explained very clearly by the Minister in charge of Communications and Transport, Honourable Brian Mushimba that, every time we make these Internet phone calls and WhatsApp phone calls, the people that get the money are WhatsApp, Facebook, Internet, we have no share in these costs. We use our data, but government has explained. Unfortunately, it is not every government policy that people will agree with,” Mwanza said.

And Phiri said once the list of those who benefitted from the loan scheme is published, the beneficiaries should be named and shamed as most of them were from the well-to-do families.

“We should continue telling the truth to the people on what this PF government has done. And I want to emphasize that come 2021, these opposition will have nothing to talk about! And if you go to the Bursaries Committee and check, you will agree with me that the people who were getting those loans, actually, are not from vulnerable families, they are from well-to-do families. So, comparing as to who hasn’t paid and who should pay is not right. When the names are published, they should be shamed because they were not even entitled to get those loans,” said Phiri.