President Edgar Lungu says going forward, the law which mandates government to build houses for former Heads of State will be scrapped off.
And former president Rupiah Banda says he hopes other former heads of state can adopt his model of getting money from government instead and building their own houses.
Speaking when he handed over Banda’s retirement house in Makeni, Thursday, President Lungu said the law would be scrapped off because it disadvantaged others who served in government.
“Let me extend my apologies to all families of former presidents for the delay in completing retirement houses. Let me also assure the families of the Zambian people that government will endeavour to complete houses at the earliest possible time. Therefore, I wish to direct all institutions involved to expedite the processes involved as our aim is to complete all former presidents’ retirement houses as soon as possible. I wish to note that government has been paying rentals for transit homes for all the former presidents’ families, this is as the families await the completion of retirement houses. As I have said, it is my government’s duty to ensure that all former presidents are comfortable in accordance with the provisions of the law and the law, we will respect,” President Lungu said.
“Further, I wish to reiterate my earlier pronouncement that government will not build me a retirement house even though it is a constitutional requirement. I have my own money and I can build my own house. And going forward, we will scrap this law because I have seen that equity does not seem to be applied when we are dealing with retired leaders. Dr Kaunda had deputies, where are they in the picture of retirement? Mr Rupiah Banda had his deputies, where are they? The success that these two great leaders contributed to Zambia was not personal, the success was because they are working as a college, collectively. So going forward, this law, unfortunately will be scrapped, we want to find a much more equitable retirement package for all those who have been serving the public.”
He said he recently visited veteran freedom fighter and UNIP secretary general Grey Zulu whom he felt was not living comfortably enough, compared to Dr Kaunda.
“Only the other day, I went to visit Mr Grey Zulu, he is relatively comfortable. But I think he wasn’t the only one who worked with Dr Kaunda, there are others, so many, it is a good scheme but I think it has not been applied properly. Let’s apply it equitably, that’s what I am saying. When I became President in 2015 I said so and somebody said, ‘no, you are not entitled to a house because you have only served one year six months, you are not eligible because that’s not a term’. When the matter came again, they said ‘you have served one term already, so you are not going to come back again in 2021’, anyway, that’s politics but for housing purposes, I am saying no more houses,” said President Lungu.
But former Banda said he hoped other former heads of state can adopt his model of getting money from government and being in charge of constructing their houses.
“My highest gratitude must be reserved for His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of the great Republic. Your Excellency, right from the start, you showed not only personal interest in the successful completion of this project but also as a sitting president, you were able to propose a new and more progressive approach on the broader question of how former Heads of State retirement should be dealt with going forward. Your Excellency, you went out of your way to accommodate my proposals for doing this project differently from what was the practice before,” he said.
“Whereas previously and by statute, the state was the one that was completely in charge of the entire process of procurement of all services, including the selection of architects, construction company and supervision of such projects. In my particular case, you allowed me to choose my own architect, contract a construction company and I was able to personally supervise the construction from start to finish in very close collaboration with the line government ministries who were always ready, when I called them, to come and assist me. I can only hope that other retirement homes for former presidents that are yet to be completed… I am aware of the fact that many of them have left us, but I hope that the system will apply and that they could benefit from this model so that surviving families can see their houses being completed more expeditiously and to their satisfaction.”
He said President Lungu must have been feeling proud to be handing over his retirement house.
“What is happening to me here today, me and my family, has happened to me before when I was vice-president. I was privileged to be instructed by president Mwanawasa to hand over the presidential house to Dr Kaunda the first president. I recall my feelings then and I said it loudly then, I will say it again, because I guess that’s how you are feeling. I felt greatly honoured that it was me who had to hand over the house to Dr Kaunda, the father of this nation, I felt like his son, his elder son who has built a house for him and is handing it over to his father. I am sure some kind of that feeling is in you Mr President, knowing how much you care, not only for me but for all the former presidents. It must be a great feeling for you because it was a great feeling for me,” said Banda.