Opposition political parties are insisting that government has sold the country to China due to Zambia’s indebtedness to that country because they do not want development, says Minister of Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela.

And Chitotela has disclosed that government has sub-contracted four local contractors for the construction of a new Copperbelt International Airport under the 20 per cent policy for designing and rehabilitation works.

Responding to opposition members of parliament, among them Livingstone UPND member of parliament Mathews Jere, who sought clarification on Zambia’s debt to China, and if the loans government was contracting from that country were insured, Chitotela wondered why Zambians were so concerned about Zambia’s debt to China when the country was owing more to Western countries.

Chitotela told opposition MPs after updating the House on the progress made on the construction of the US $360 million Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) upgrade project, and the Copperbelt Airport in Ndola, to stop peddling lies about China’s interest in African countries like Zambia.

“Let me make this very clear, Zambia is our country. We need to have limits in terms of politicking. We all know that international loans are guaranteed and secured by the international insurance companies, like in the case of this loan. It is insured by the International Insurance Company of China. This loan is fully insured, Mr Speaker, and we know what happens if you go to borrow money that you fail to pay or so, the insurance company comes in to pay. That’s why the risks are covered. Zambians must be assured that these properties, all what we are executing [is insured]. And I must emphasise, Mr Speaker, these fights against China that Zambia…According to the Minister of Finance, she did state that the total debt is about US $9.4 billion and out of this, the money owed to China is less than US $3 billion. Why are we not talking about where we owe more than US $6 billion to say, ‘they are buying the country?’ Why are we following a country that has just lent less than 10 per cent of our GDP that they are talking over the country?” Chitotela asked.

He insisted that the opposition had resorted to lying about China’s interest in Zambia because they had no other message for the people.

“Mr Speaker, this is purely a political machination because the Chinese government is actually assisting African countries to develop, and our friends in the opposition are scared, because they will have no message to tell the Zambian people. So, now, the only thing [they have to do] is to scandalise the government so that, maybe, they can deter the Chinese government from assisting African governments to develop so that they will have a message to tell the people out there. But in Zambia, people are very alert and they know that there is no government on this earth that would want to govern the people and then you want to see the same country that you want to govern. It doesn’t happen like that,” Chitotela said.

“And the question I am asking, Mr Speaker is, why are we talking about the US $2.8 billion that we owe to Chinese that, ‘we have sold the country’ when we have huge amounts that we owe to the Western governments, which is in excess of US $6 billion. Who can then buy Zambia between the one that you are owing less than 10 per cent of the GDP and the one that you are owing more than 30 per cent of the GDP? Who can buy between these two? We must not politic because we know that the Chinese nationals are interested in seeing that African countries develop.”

And responding to a question from Mumbwa independent member of parliament Machila Jamba, who wanted to find out how many Zambian-owned companies were participating in the projects involving the construction of airports, Chitotela said four Zambian companies had been sub-contracted for the construction of the Copperbelt International Airport in Ndola.

“Last time when I issued a statement, I did provide data on the construction of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in terms of how many Zambians and how much money has been given to the local sub-contractors. But I paid more attention this time on the new Copperbelt International Airport. We have four companies that have been sub-contracted. These are; M & N Industrial Mechanical Ltd, whose jobs are enclosure-access roads. You may be aware, Mr Speaker, that the construction of airports needs specialization. The second company is AFRICOS Construction and Supply Ltd; their main works are earth drainage and also number three; AFRICOS Construction and Supply Ltd, the concrete U-shape and the open ditch. Number four; AFRICOS Construction and Supply Ltd, brickwork. And the total amount paid, Mr Speaker, to this local contractor is 121,231,235. I wish to inform the House that the contractor for the Copperbelt International Airport is AVIC International. The contract sum is 37,921,694 with a contract period of 36 moths. However, a few local contractors have been sub-contracted under a policy of 20 per cent,” said Chitotela.