Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary Stardy Mwale says the Zambia Air Force has a constitutional mandate to protect President Edgar Lungu in the sky, and as such, the defence wing will procure the necessary defence mechanism to achieve this objective.

In a statement released late yesterday, Mwale rubbished the Africa Confidential exposé which revealed that the Zambian government had gotten a US$400 million loan to procure an anti-missile VIP jet for the Head of State, but admitted that the defence modernisation committee had been investing in latest military aircrafts to replace the old fleet.

“The Constitution of the Republic of Zambia mandates the Zambia Airforce (ZAF) to provide air support and maintenance of the highest standards of aviation security to the President and all government officials duly authorised to use the air assets of the State. In this regard, to carry out this onerous constitutional mandate, the Zambia Airforce, in 2012, embarked on a programme to replace its ageing fleet of transport and fighter aircraft and other associated air defence equipment. This procurement of aircraft and associated air assets is a lengthy process and still on going due to the time it takes to select appropriate aircraft and equipment and the laborious legal procedures in line with the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) Act,” Mwale stated.

“The upgrading of our air defence system is in line with the mandate given to the Defence Modernisation Committee, which was appointed by His Excellency Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata. This Committee has regularly briefed His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia on the progress being made in the procurement process. Whenever budgetary allocations have been available, and procurement guidelines completed, we have, as an on-going process, purchased the required air and ground defence assets to respond to the defence and security needs of the country.”

He said the African Confidential report was malicious.

“I therefore wish to inform the general public that information circulating regarding Zambia’s procurement of aircraft is not only misleading, but also manifestly malicious and designed to malign the reputation of the President and his government in general. I wish to stress that aviation security for the Head of State is not a function of State House but that of the Ministry of Defence through the Zambia Airforce as per its constitutional mandate. The Zambia Airforce is the only State institution, which is mandated to provide air mobility to the Head of State and as such, ZAF remains the only procuring agent for government aircraft. This is the mandate ZAF has been carrying out since its inception in 1964 has supported all administrations as such. Let me therefore stress that there is no US$400 million being spent on any single aircraft or military equipment as falsely and maliciously alleged by the Africa Confidential and other media platforms,” said Mwale.

“Again, in line with the Constitutional mandate of the Zambia Army, a decision was made to establish a Marine Unit for Special Forces domiciled at Kala Barracks in Kawambwa. The procurement process was done in full compliance with the ZPPA Act and this Unit for Special Forces was publicly launched by the President and the groundbreaking ceremony was also a public function. This was also the case with the decision to upgrade the Mina Soko Military Hospital. So there no truth in the stories being peddled around on these two projects. Now that they are tired of attacking Chinese-financed projects, they have turned to attacking all procurement projects involving the State of Israel. I wish to state also that defence procurement is just what it is, it is informed by geopolitical defence and security considerations. We are not going to tell you on a daily basis why this military unit is based here and not there. We are not going to tell you the configuration of our defence assets, capability and range of assets and why they are being bought.”