UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says China’s cancellation of the US$22 million debt is nothing but a mockery and embarrassment to the Zambian government.

And Hichilema says Zambians need a breath of fresh air and a leadership that understands the importance of growing the economy for its citizens.

Meanwhile, Hichilema says when he becomes Head of State, he will ensure that the University go Zambia reverses the conferment of an honorary doctorate on President Edgar Lungu.

In an interview on the sidelines of the US National Day celebrations, Thursday, Hichilema said it was embarrassing for Zambia to be talking about debt relief.

“We should never have acquired that debt in the first place because we got a debt relief under president [Levy] Mwanawasa, who worked very hard and our debt position was very much low. And in a short time, particularly from 2011 under the PF, we have coughed out another huge debt mountain. So, really, it is embarrassing for us to talk about debt relief of US$22 million from China. The debt that was acquired for just one project, Lusaka-Ndola (Dual Carriageway) road, which should cost US$400 million [but] it is costing US$1.2 billion. So, it means we have lost US$800 million on one project. If China gives us a debt relief of US$22 million, it means, ultimately, we have lost US$777 million. So, that debt relief means nothing. It is actually a mockery and an embarrassment. We don’t need to be in that situation. China, and the related projects we are giving to China in the corrupt way, which is costing us too much of tax-payers’ money,” Hichilema said.

And asked what Zambia could learn from US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote’s speech delivered on his country’s 243rd Independence celebration, Hichilema said Zambians needed a fresh breath of air with new, visionary leadership.

“American Ambassador’s statement is spot-on! To develop your country to create jobs, you need positive business policies, attractive, consistent, stable. We need a tax regime that lowers the cost of doing business; you need respect for the rule of law, respect human rights, liberties and freedom. These go together with entrepreneurship and development. There goes the problem and we need to address these issues. I think it’s about poor leadership. And that is why this country needs a breath of fresh air, a leadership that understands the importance of growing the economy to create jobs, to look after the sick, the weak. A leadership that has a vision, a leadership whose policy on corruption is zero and that’s the UPND,” Hichilema said.

Meanwhile, Hichilema said President Lungu did not deserve an honorary doctorate.

“Mr Lungu will do himself a favour by turning down that Doctorate, he does not deserve it [and] he knows that! So, when we come in office, we will investigate the University of Zambia’s corrupt conduct, and actually ask them to draw back that conferment of the Doctorate. It’s such a shame and it’s an example of the collapse of institutions caused by the poor leadership. That is an embarrassment and an insult to the people of Zambia. Mr Lungu does not deserve to be given a Doctorate in good governance. Everything relating to good governance has collapsed in this country under his leadership! The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) (Trends) Report tells you what’s going on in this country,” Hichilema said.

“We have never seen these levels of corruption, the quantum that are involved, money stolen from poor people, civil servants are awarded four per cent increment and yet money is stolen through corruption! The Anti-Corruption Commission is not free to do its work. If Mr Lungu respected good governance, we should have seen prosecution of those that are involved in corruption mentioned in the FIC Report; we should have seen the suspension of (Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald) Chitotela from his Cabinet position. So, how the hell can the University of Zambia award a Doctorate in governance to such a man? It’s a shame to the University of Zambia! It shows that institutions have collapsed. That is no longer the University of Zambia that I went to in the 80s; it was a strong institution; it was professional and academic [but] it’s no longer the case.”

Meanwhile, Hichilema said the Drug Enforcement Agency’s investigations into Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) chief executive officer Zindaba Soko’s dealings was just the tip of the iceberg as there were more suspects in the FIC’s Trends Report.

“That is just a tip of an iceberg. What we need is the removal of Chitotela from that office! We need the prosecution of those mentioned under the FIC Report, both the previous and the current reports. Why arrest only the RTSA chief executive? They are abusing citizens and stealing from them and their days are numbered! Zambians will make a very strong decision and no one will stop them. And this is happening around the region and it will happen in this country,” said Hichilema, who reiterated widespread calls to immediately re-open the Copperbelt University (CBU).