Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda says President Edgar Lungu recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo could have justified a larger delegation.

On Friday, President Lungu went to DRC to attend veteran DRC opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s funeral.

Etienne died in Belgium two years ago.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joe Malanji, Luapula Province Minister Nixon Chilangwa, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Kampamba Mulenga, Copperbelt Province Minister Japhen Mwakalombe and Western Province Minister Richard Kapita were in President Lungu’s delegation, drawing sharp criticism from members of the public.

Others in his delegation were Special Assistant for Politics Kaizer Zulu and Chanda.

Reacting to this criticism in an OP-ED, Sunday, Chanda said he understood that people were very irritable given the difficult economic period but justified the trip.

“In any difficult economic period, people are easily irritable but I can assure you in terms of the “unspoken nuances” and “intricacies” of international diplomacy, the massive “hidden benefits” of good neighborliness, this trip would have justified even a larger delegation,” Chanda wrote.

Chanda said the reason Luapula, ‘North Western’ and Copperbelt ministers were in President Lungu’s delegation was that their provincial territories bordered DRC.

“This is the first trip to the DRC by H.E President Lungu since he assumed power in 2015! Need I say more! In this delegation, there are three provincial ministers (Luapula, North Western and Copperbelt) whose territories border the DRC; the only female gender in the delegation is Livestock & Fisheries Minister Hon Kampamba Mulenga (DRC remains one of Zambia’s largest livestock and Agro markets),” Chanda said.

“Yes, Etienne Tshisekedi was an opposition leader who died two years ago, but whose son is it that is now president there? How would President Lungu not honour a special invitation from sister nation without any good reason.”

He insisted that the trip was a “necessary gesture”.

“Yes, we in austerity time, but there are certain crucial matters of state that would always be an exception. This was a hugely necessary gesture at state -to- state level. On the sidelines of the state funeral, President Lungu held tripartite talks with his DRC host and H.E Dennis Sassa Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville. In this meeting the President was accompanied by relevant ministers in the delegation,” said Chanda.

“And in terms of the inviolability of the “principle of reciprocity” in diplomatic practice, this one day trip was a necessary reciprocal act to honour the DRC president’s visit to Zambia early last year. Within this year the increased positive exchanges between Zambia and DRC will assure the two peoples of the necessity of sisterhood of these two nations.”

On May 28, Minister of Finance Margarate Mwanakatwe announced some austerity measures in a bid to moderate Zambia’s growing risk of debt distress.