TRANSPARENCY International Zambia president Reuben Lifuka says failure by State House to explain the leaked pictures of President Edgar Lungu with Belarusian oligarch Alexander Zingman and Lusaka businessman Vaulden Findlay will fuel speculation that there is State Capture at play in Zambia.

Yesterday, News Diggers published an Investigation linking President Lungu to Zingman who, according to the Business News Line publication of March 25, 2020, is associated with questionable deals between Russian dealers and African countries.

Commenting on the development, Lifuka reminded President Lungu that he promised to protect institutions of governance from State Capture.

“The leading story in today’s edition of the News Diggers newspaper, alleging links between State House and businesspersons from Russia and Belarus, raises a number of questions which beg for answers. While we understand that government is free to do business with any person or entity, it is important that clarification is given by Government and State House whether indeed Zambia has any dealings with any of the individuals presented in the news article. The absence of clear and adequate information will give rise to all manner of speculation and innuendoes which could impact negatively on our international standing,” Lifuka said.

“We do recall that in January 2018, President Lungu during the swearing in of Judges of the Court of Appeal, made a fundamental point about State Capture. The President warned the judiciary (and the nation) to guard against State capture and to remain independent. From this and other statements, we have inferred that President Lungu abhors state Capture and he would do everything possible not to allow this country be controlled by private interests.”

He said TIZ would give the photographs a benefit of the doubt while waiting for an explanation from State House.

“Therefore we want to be cautiously hopeful that even in this instance, there is a good explanation for the meetings between State House / the Zambian government with the businesspersons from Russia and Belarus. For all we know, these could be private and personal meetings among friends. But all that is just a matter of conjecture at the moment and needs some official statement,” he said.

“It is said the best disinfectant is sunlight and in this particular instance, the best way to end all speculation is for State House to give the public relevant information on what was going on.”

He wondered what Lusaka businessman Valden Findlay was doing among generals if there were some defence procurement transactions going on.

“Of course if this is official and related to defense procurement, we are fully aware of the legal shield that such activities enjoy and this again could be a matter that is properly explained by Government and further information provided on why then did private individuals who do not represent government, engage in these meetings. Again, we think that Zambians are owed an explanation of these happenings so that we are not all left to be submerged in versions of stories which are possibly simply figments of the rich imagination of some people.”

Photographs have emerged of President Lungu, Defence Permanent Secretary Sturdy Mwale, Zambia Air Force Commander Lt Gen David Muma and Military Attaché at the Zambian Embassy in Moscow, Robert Kampachi, with the said Belarusian businessman.

On one of the photographs, Zingman holds the shoulders of Air Force Commander Muma and PS Mwale next to Lusaka businessman Valden Findlay and Kampachi.

Information gathered indicates that Zingman brokered a meeting between President Lungu and Alexander Mikheev, President of Rosoboronexport, which is the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defence-related products, technologies and services.

Although he operates under the radar, Alexander Zingman is reported to be a valuable chain in the relations between Zambia and East Europe, and is believed to have brokered the procurement of helicopters from Russia and the contract for the supply of Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircrafts.

According to an investigation, Zingman is an influential Belarusian businessman who operates behind the scenes, and holder of both American and Zimbabwean citizenships. He is believed to be working with African governments, including Zambia, in brokering opaque deals with Russian companies.

In January 2019 Zingman was announced Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul in Belarus, and made 6 flights to Harare in 4 months between March-July 2018. In March 2018, Zimbabwe and Belarus signed millions of dollars worth of deals across various economic sectors, including agriculture and forestry equipment, mining and transportation.