President Edgar Lungu says unlike the question on his 2021 eligibility which was easy, the Constitutional Court’s ruling compelling former Cabinet Ministers to pay back monies illegally accrued in 2016 is questionable.
And President Lungu says Chishimba Kambwili’s business interests are suffering because of his mouth.
Meanwhile, President Lungu says US $14 million will be paid to South African power utility Eskom as part of the overall outstanding US $34 million balance for the emergency electricity power import deal.
Speaking during his third media conference at State House, Friday afternoon, President Lungu said he had subjected the ConCourt ruling on former ministers to further consultation because it was highly questionable and some of them were threatening to sue him.
He was reacting to a question from News Diggers! on why he chose to subject the ConCourt judgement for further consultation, yet he considered judgement from the same court over his 2021 eligibility final and unquestionable.
“The most interesting one…this question has been exercising my mind, not out of disrespect to the courts of law, but out of morality. And I can share with you that I talked to some of my technocrats and ministers, and they said they were willing to pay. But they didn’t know whether they should pay the full salary, allowances, those who were paying rentals and so on…they are not sure. And they’re saying ‘besides, we worked!’ And that’s a very valid, moral argument. I asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) to give me some of the conventions we subscribe to as Zambia; some of them don’t encourage working for mahala or slave labour. So, are you saying that those Ministers fondokared (laboured) for nothing? That’s the question,” he responded.
“And some of them were saying, ‘we’ll sue you, Mr President, because you made us work for nothing!’ And I said, ‘sue me, but I will be indemnified by the same State.’ My reaction was: ‘sue me, and you will sue the Attorney General (Likando Kalaluka) because you worked for nothing; you travelled to sign protocols and agreements and negotiated loans for us, which loans benefited this country. And are we saying that all those loans, agreements are invalid because those people worked illegally? We have a lot of questions as the State, not that we are challenging the courts of law on this particular one. Even as I was coming here, I anticipated this question.”
He said while he respected the courts of law, the ConCourt ruling ordering former Ministers to repay the illegally-accrued funds was being questioned.
“…I don’t want to be at loggerheads with the courts of law, I respect them because of my background as a lawyer, and I know that we should not question some of these decisions, but this one is being questioned! We are really thinking hard. As I was coming here this (Friday) morning, somebody was saying, ‘so, those agreements we signed, are they invalid because we were in office illegally?’ And I said, ‘that’s a jurisprudence question, that’s a very complicated one, it’s not for me!’ So, it is something we want to do, and I don’t think we want to go back to court and ask ‘what are we returning back?’ It’s a very complex,” he said.
“And this man says, ‘is it okay if we sued you, Mr President, for making us work illegally?’ I said, ‘yes, go ahead. But I will seek indemnity from the Attorney General because work was done for the Republic of Zambia, which comes to the same thing that, money will come from the State.’ So, for me, when you ask me, you confuse me because I wish we could pay back the money and end this one. But from what I am seeing…that’s why the delay has taken place in terms of consultation. Right now, we are trying to say, can we go to court so that the court can tell us which payments will be returned? Is it the full salary or the allowance when he went to go and negotiate that loan, is it also included? It’s not as simple as saying that, ‘Edgar Lungu is eligible to stand in 2021,’ this is more complex because there are people who are out of our control now, who are no longer ministers, and we cannot say ‘we are going to deduct from your salary because the Court has ordered that you surrender that money.’ Some of them are our enemies and they are saying, ‘let me know how much so that I return the money!’ But who will tell them? Me? I don’t know how much is supposed to be returned.”
And President Lungu said the National Democratic Congress (NDC) leader’s family and business interests had suffered because of his mouth and negative attitude.
Responding to a question posed by ZNBC’s Mark Ziligone on whether the purported reconciliation between the Head of State and the NDC leader was genuine following their brief meeting held last month during late president Michael Sata’s fifth memorial at St Ignatius parish, President Lungu explained that he had no “issues” with Kambwili and, therefore, had nothing to reconcile about.
“I didn’t know that Chishimba Kambwili was in the crowd; the priest called me, we shook hands and the newspapers said that ‘we reconciled.’ I have got no issues with Chishimba Kambwili, save that he’s offended some people, including members of my family by calling me a thief, corrupt person and a drug dealer. To cut a long story short, after the meeting, the priest saw it fit to call us in his office and there, I told him what I’ve said: ‘you can’t reconcile with me even if the Church wishes that will be the case because I’ve got no issues with you; it’s you who has got issues with me. So, if you say I am thief, you should lay the evidence that I am a thief, corrupt person, I am drug dealer…if I was a private person, I would have sued you!’ Those were my words. And then, I promised the Father that I would not talk about this matter because his response to my position was that, he’s suffering! His family and businesses have suffered! And I told him, I said, ‘your family and business interests are suffering because of your mouth!” President Lungu narrated, as journalists erupted in laughter.
“…And I explained further by saying that, ‘your mouth is so negative that people who want to work with you fear that they would be perceived to be supporting your cause and so some of them have been ignoring business association and interests with you; it’s not to do with me because I know what it means to suffer blackout or sanctions in that manner.’ So, I don’t know whether you can say that was a reconciliation or not. After that, we left. I would rather reconcile with everybody. But you make peace with yourself first; find out whether what you are saying is truthful or not, if not, retract.”
He cited examples of politicians who had sincerely reconciled by apologizing to the Head of State publicly before subsequently returning back to the ruling party.
“I even went further, I said, look: ‘GBM (Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba) reconciled truthfully. He went public and said ‘sorry about it’ and so on…the Mayor of Lusaka (Miles Sampa), we reconciled because he went public and said look, ‘I want to work with you, I am sorry…’ and he did this not in the bedroom of my house, or in the privacy of State House, he went public because it’s the public who are affected by these things. So, that’s where we are,” he said.
Reacting to a question on whether he was standing to re-contest the Republican Presidency for a third successive time in the August, 2021, general election, President Lungu hinted his willingness, but stressed that he was only just a “sponsored candidate.”
“Coming to 2021, am I sole candidate? I am just a sponsored candidate of PF and I cannot determine how PF wants to run its race to 2021. The central committee, general conference are all organs of the PF. So, if the PF chooses to go this route or that route; I am ready to play; I am game in short. For me, I am a democrat,” he said, as some sections of the media applauded.
“How many times have I been fought by way of contestation? So many! I think I can say I am a champion of democracy as a person and PF is the leading player in democracy. So, we will go to the conference; if that we will be the wish of the party, I am game!”
Meanwhile, speaking earlier during his opening address, President Lungu announced that a US $14 million payment would be paid to Eskom as part of the overall outstanding US $34 million balance for the emergency electricity power import deal.
“My government has made a decision to import power from Eskom of South Africa. The initial requirement is to pay US $44 million of which US $10 million has already been paid. Next week, US $14 million will be paid and anytime soon thereafter, the rest of the amount will be settled,” said President Lungu.
“These imports are a stop-gap measure as we wait for the coming on board of 750 megawatts of power from Kafue Gorge Lower in early March next year. The project is at 80 per cent completion.”