Former Lands Minister Harry Kalaba says the advise that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) gives to government can either be taken or ignored, citing an example of how the Levy Mwanawasa regimes went against the Agency’s recommendation when building the “Sun Hotel Industry” in Livingstone.

And Kalaba who is also former Foreign Affairs Minister and now opposition Democratic Party president, says Russia’s decision to cancel the supply contract for a presidential super-jet to Zambia due to the country’s failure to settle an outstanding balance has negatively dented Zambia’s image to the international community.

In an interview, when asked why he did not resign in 2014 after realising that the government’s decision through him to allow mining activity in the Lower Zambezi National Park was wrong, Kalaba said it was not necessary at the time, but stressed that the PF government still had time to reverse the decision now.

“No, no, no! It is no every time that you should resign; there are various ways of dealing with issues. I didn’t resign and that is the fact. I resigned when I thought that I should have resigned. I didn’t think that was the time for me to resign because I didn’t see the reason to resign. There was no reason for me to resign. Now, I resigned because there is corruption going on in government. There are a lot of misdeeds going on in government. You don’t just run because there is a view that has been taken,” Kalaba said.

“One thing that must be known is that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) is an advisory agency to government. The advice that ZEMA gives can be taken and not taken. ZEMA advised that Sun Hotel should not go ahead with the project that they have built Zambezi Royal Livingstone. But government, under (Levy) Mwanawasa, they went ahead and did Sun Hotel industry, isn’t it bringing tourism to us now? Government looks at things at a holistic perspective.”

He urged stakeholders who were against the decision to petition the matter to government who had the power to revisit the decision.

“So, my humble advice to everybody is that Harry Kalaba made a decision in 2014; if that decision has turned out that the decision is not good for us now, revisit it! There is still a government in place. We should not even talk about Harry Kalaba who is not in government. There is a government in place now, which should just revisit the decision now. Before the end of the day, we could have worked on this issue,” said Kalaba.

And Kalaba said the Russian government’s announcement of the cancellation of a contract for the supply of the presidential super-jet to Zambia has exposed how careless the PF government is.

Last week, the Russian government revealed that it had cancelled a contract for the supply of a Sukhoi super-jet 100 presidential VIP plane to Zambia, despite government paying a down payment for the purchase due to the country’s failure to finance the deal.

“It is telling the international community that we don’t have our priorities right. It is telling them that there is no financial discipline within the circles of government. It is telling the Russian government that while we are asking money from them, we are unable to even look after the money we already have properly,” Kalaba said.

“So, of course, the international community will lose confidence in our dealings, they will lose confidence in the way government is handling (resources) and once they lose confidence in the way government is dealing with issues, we will get affected. The poor health worker, the poor civil servant, the poor Zambian citizen who are supposed to receive social amenities from government won’t receive it because those that should be our cooperating partners have lost confidence in us. That is were the problem is. It (the cancellation) will give us a bad image.”

He also observed that the purchase should never have been a priority for the PF government when the country lacked social amenities.

“It has never been a priority (the buying of the jet); it is a wastage of resources because those guys have also spent some money with aircrafts, which they have not recovered because they went and started buying their planes from America and God knows where. Carelessness of the highest order! And I think government needs to be prudent in the management of scarce resources,” Kalaba said.

“I mean, that cancellation by the Russian (government) is very sad reading, because in a country where we’re struggling to find medicines in hospitals; in a country that we are struggling to do feeder roads; in a country where we are struggling to pay our farmers the correct price for their produce, we can’t afford to lose money just like that purchase that we cannot sustain. It is extremely sad and regrettable! Heavily sad! That money, which they have not taken charge properly, that money could have been used probably to stimulate production of mealie meal by farmers and they can begin to export to DRC and other neighbouring countries.”