Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) leader Charles Milupi says austerity measures will not apply to President Edgar Lungu because he has a luxury jet which he needs to show off.
On Friday last week, President Lungu flew to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attend the funeral of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi who died Belgium two years ago.
The President carried with him Minister of Foreign Affairs Joe Malanji, Luapula Province Minister Nixon Chilangwa, North Western Province Minister Richard Kapita, Copperbelt Province Minister Japhen Mwakalombe, Livestock Minster Kampamba Mulenga Chewe and some State House officials.
But commenting to Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda’s justification that the trip was necessary, Milupi said President Lungu would always find somewhere to go with his luxury jet because he was still excited to show off.
“We understand that because he has bought himself this new plane, he has to have somewhere to go with it. That is one of the reasons why he has had to fly…you can’t just buy a brand new car and not be seen in it. So for him, we have bought this thing at US$138 million and it’s fitted with luxury, so he just has to be using it. It’s just like a little boy with toys, he’s got to play with those toys,” Milupi said.
Milupi said it was unbelievable that President Lungu could travel for a funeral of an opposition leader who died two years ago with such a big delegation.
“Mr Etienne Tshisekedi has not died this week, he died two years ago. He was not Head of State, he was just a leader of the opposition. So for President Lungu to feel the need to fly to DRC with all those officials is unbelievable, especially in light of the fact that his government has just announced austerity measures where officials will not be allowed to travel. This shows that this government is not serious and that they will not stick to those measures because that is how the officials also make money. PF is all about making money through allowances, through corrupt deals and so on. So I think I have been proved right that the austerity measures will be applied selectively. When the President himself cannot show an example by restraining himself from going to receive the body of somebody who died two years ago, that shows lack of seriousness. That is why we are worried that the economy of this country cannot continue to be in the hands of these people who are not serious,” he said.
“I submit very strongly that this is not a funeral that ought to have been attended by a Head of State or by anybody. Our Ambassador in DRC would have been more than sufficient to attend the funeral. It’s not a funeral for a Head of State, Mr Etienne Tshisekedi has never been head of State, he was an opposition leader just like we have opposition leaders. Let’s say one of us opposition leaders here dies, will it be in order for foreign Heads of State to come and attend that particular burial? And in this particular case, it’s not even a funeral, Mr Tshisekedi died two years in France. The fact that his son later took over the Presidency does not alter the situation, he was not Head of State. So this just shows how frivolous we are in the utilisation of public resources, that like playboys, we have to be seen in an arrangement like that.”
Milupi said even the Congolese were not serious about how they managed their resources.
“DRC Congo themselves are in massive economic problems. So for them to lay on this funeral two years after someone died is a clear indication that they are also not serious in the way they manage their economy. Now, I will give another example; in Angola, these are also our neighbours, huh? The body of Mr Savimbi has been surrendered to his relatives for burial at his village. Mr [Jonas] Savimbi was opposition leader, is our President saying he’s also going to fly there with a large delegation? In fact, in terms of substance, we could say Mr Savimbi was a lot more substantial than Mr Tshisekedi, in as far as Angola is concerned because Mr Savimbi fought for independence and he did quite a lot. So the body has just been surrendered and it’s going to be buried, so is our President going to attend that burial too? I think the President must start doing things that make sense. If there was need for these ministers to travel to Congo, they should have done so at an appropriate time. But to use the arrival of Mr Tshisekedi’s body as an excuse shows how not serious they are with the austerity measures that they have put in place. And it shows that they really don’t appreciate the depth of our economic problems,” said Milupi.