President Edgar Lungu has asked the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) International to empower local contractors engaged in the ongoing construction of the Copperbelt International Airport with life skills.

Speaking when he held talks with the contractor at Dag Hammarskjöld area, off the Ndola – Kitwe dual carriageway yesterday, President Lungu said it would be wise if local contractors were empowered with skills which they could use even after the end the project.

“We would like get the skills that are necessary for maintaining the Airport after completion passed on our people because we won’t have to come to China everyday when we have a problem. So in this respect, we expect that you cooperate with the ministry, the technical staff from the National Council of Construction. Make sure that Zambians are brought on board to work under the 20 per cent contract policy. We don’t think [that] you can only give them drainage jobs or wall fence construction. We know they don’t have the skills, [but] supervise them closely so that by the end of the project, they will be able to utilize those skills and turn them into their own and be able to utilize them in our industries,” President Lungu said.

“I am saying this because you may be worried that they don’t have the competence, they don’t have experience. But if they don’t have experience and the competence, then what can you do? Can’t you give it to them? So you have to make sure that you collaborate closely with our local contractors. Whether they are not competent, work with them and see to it that the work which comes out is up to the standard which you promised us. We will not take it if you come and tell us ‘this project has failed because of the 20 per cent’ because the 20 per cent is the one we have made for ourselves and we have agreed. So work with them, give them the skills. All defects should be cured on your side to ensure that the blame games to say ‘no it’s because of the 20 per cent that we are doing shoddy works. I believe that want to be ambassadors after this project we will talk to other African countries about the quality of the works that you are able to do. So we don’t have now to compromise on the quality of works that you will be undertaking in the name of the 20 per cent, we will not take that.”

The President also demanded that the contractor looks into the working conditions of service for locals, who were usually being exploited.

“I am being told that the workers are being ill-treated, they don’t have protective wear and that they are below standard wages. They have seen me and they expect me to talk to you about their welfare and about everything else that goes with staff issues and motivation to do the job. We don’t want sabotage on account of being disgruntled. So the whole reason of us being here was simply to have an appreciation of where we are… we will be talking to banks involved in China to give the remaining monies as soon as possible that we continue without any disruptions on account of the China Exim Bank not giving you the money,” said President Lungu.

And speaking to journalists after his closed door meeting with the contractor, President Lungu expressed gratitude to all cooperating partners helping government to fulfill it’s promises to the people of Zambia.

“We should be happy that a government that promised to do certain things and we are seeing them, as opposed to those who want to come and give excuses when time comes to account for your time in office. When the tour of duty ends, we want to point to the things that Zambians bought into the PF vision way back in 2011 and they renewed the mandate and their confidence in PF in 2016, about development infrastructure, improving the wellbeing of our people, economic growth and so on. So the impression I have is that we are on the ball and like I said, we don’t want to continue listening to noise from outside. This is what we want, agriculture, tourism development, manufacturing… we promise the people of Zambia a lot and we are grateful that our partners, whether Chinese or American or Europeans, they are all doing what they’ve told us,” said President Lungu.

And the contractor’s representative, who disclosed that about 800 workers so far had been engaged to carry out various types of works, promised President Lungu that the local contractors would be empowered with skills.

“We are ready, and we promise you that. We are ready to sub contract 15 per cent people to do $6 million works to the local sub contractors and material suppliers. With the remaining period of construction, we will have ideas of how many more local contractors we need. We have awarded three local contractors who are working at the site. Total sub contracting works will reach $4.5 million this year,” said the representative.