People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda has challenged government to make all Chinese contracts public so that citizens can be assured that their interests are protected.
And UPPZ leader Charles Chanda says China is not here to help Zambia but to make money.
In an interview, Banda said lack of transparency on government’s dealings with China was causing anxiety.
“I think the biggest issue that is causing all these anxieties, suspicions and rumours as a result that the government has not been transparent in their dealings with China. So what we would ask for is that there should be transparency in their dealings with China. I think that’s what would help. The Zambian people want to know what has been agreed in all these contracts, where are the contracts and why can’t they put them on the table? Because the truth of the matter and as a position of PAC, we don’t have issues dealing with China because everyone does from America, to Britain, to Russia, but the issue is that we don’t know what is contained in those contracts as far as we are concerned, between Zambia and China,” Banda said.
Banda observed that if all Chinese contracts and agreements were made public, citizens would not cry foul if their interests were protected.
“So if those contracts or whatever agreements they have cannot be put to the table, cannot be given to the public, it will be difficult for the public to conclude to say whether what they are saying is true of not, because the fact of the matter is that the PF government has lied to us for far too long. So it’s very difficult to believe them without them producing evidence or some kind of exhibit to say this ‘this is what we have agreed with China [and] there is nothing sinister that we are talking about.’ They can also tell us exactly for example regarding ZESCO, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, and ZNBC. They need to tell us all the companies that are working with these institutions,” he said.
“For example if its ZESCO, they need to tell us that ‘these are the companies that are working with ZESCO, and this is what has been agreed, this is how much they are doing and after they complete this work, this is how much we will owe them and there is no collateral to say no we have put ZESCO as collateral based on these works, we have not agreed to say if we fail to pay the debt, part of ZESCO for example distribution is going to be taken by the Chinese.’ So all those things can only be sorted out once the agreements are put on the table.”
He said the problem with China was that it was giving out money anyhow without considering if benefiting nations were serious about the fight against corruption.
“The biggest problem that we have with China is that it’s giving money to anybody. They don’t care about whether there is good governance, whether there is some robust fight against corruption. They just give anyone and you see in the end, that money just ends up going to people’s pockets. And that’s the difference between the IMF and China. So the issue is that government needs to be more transparent in dealing with China. They need to be open and they actually need to give us more information. Since this is a hot issue, I would advise the government to dedicate some level of human resource to educate the people about all this Zambia-China relationship and tell us exactly all the agreements that we have,” said Banda.
“The only thing that I support the Western countries is that they don’t give money anyhow. I think if it’s going to be easy to be getting money, corruption is going to be on the rise. When there are things attached for example, the Chinese don’t care even if that money is squandered, they don’t care [because] they know that there is something that they are going to get out of it. But I think I would prefer loans that have some strings attached because there is going to be proper management of the government as they will have to fight corruption, they will make sure that the cost of running governments is lessened and all that kind of things. I think I may stand on the side of the Western guys because it looks like China is giving a blank cheque.”
And speaking when he featured on Joy Fm’s ‘The Platform’ programme, Monday, Chanda said Zambians did not like the way Chinese people were conducting business with them.
“The Chinese are not here to help us, they are here to make money on us. There is nothing wrong with the Chinese money, there is nothing wrong with the Chinese loans but there is everything wrong with the way China wants to conduct business with Zambia and I have no apology on that. We need to correct that as citizens. You cannot allow a situation where a Zambian contractor will not even be given to dig a foundation, a Zambian contractor will not even be given chance to paint a house. If we are going to pay this money back, we must be in control of this money, the money should be in this country. even the foreign contractors, let no one cheat us, people are also receiving cuts there. That is why you can hear that a minister is donating K150 thousand, where will a minister get K150 thousand/ look at his salary, maybe he is getting K18 thousand , the money is coming from these same contractors. So they are also eating, the foreign contractors are also paying. That is why you can have one company doing all the contracts. That company should God allow me to become president, I am going to investigate it,” said Chanda.