ALLIANCE for Democracy and Development (ADD) leader Charles Milupi says government’s decision to hire a French company to help restructure Zambia’s debt at a cost of US$5 million is a waste of resources because there are qualified citizens who can do the job for much less.

In an interview, Milupi said it was important for Zambia to work with its own resources given the strain on the country’s resources.

“There are people in Zambia who have been governors of the Bank of Zambia, who have been ministers of finance, who have been directors in the ministry of finance, who are accountants, who are economists, who are professional engineers and so on who if called upon, you know, every time they had meetings with the IMF and World Bank and these European institutions, it was Zambians who were called. This business of ‘no we are going to get to these experts to help us restructure and so on’, these experts, where are they created? I am an engineer by profession, I am an expert engineer, I am as good as any engineer elsewhere in the world, that’s what I feel. We have economists here who are as good as any economist, we have trained in the same institutions, the same universities. So if we are a poor country, why can’t we fall back on our resources and our resources include human resource. Why don’t we come together and say these people should go and negotiate? First of all, we have these experts within government, within the civil service, where are they all of a sudden? Where have they disappeared to? So the country now is going to be run by outsider?” Milupi asked.

“What we have seen with PF government is that everything that happens to them, they look for an opportunity to make money, to spend money. Whether it was the very beginning when they just came in to change the currency, to debase the kwacha, we saw that there were, in so called advising, that is how they made money for themselves. When they made us go into this over borrowed state, going for Eurobonds, there are those that were called experts, transaction experts, again we know that they made money that way, money under the table. So that is the way they operate, everything that happens, for them, they don’t look at the country, they look at an opportunity, can we make money on the sides and so on.”

He said “chickens had now come to roost” since government ignored advice on Eurobonds.

“We are an over borrowed state because they went against our advice right from the first Eurobonds, you people who are in the media know what I am saying, know what the other opposition leaders have said that that was not the way to go. We were called lunatics by ministers, then ministers of finance and so on, that we hate the country, this was development and so on. When we say this was expensive money, commercial money, we were called all sorts of names, now chickens have come home to roost, the inevitable has happened, we are an over-borrowed state, our debt cannot be managed,” Milupi said.

Milupi said the only reason PF was seeking to restructure debt was so that they could have space to borrow more money.

“We are in a vicious cycle, they are putting us in a vicious cycle, basically what they are trying to do is move this debt to even further dates in future so that it will allow us to go and borrow more money. No one is thinking of our resources, there is gold in Mwinilunga and so on. So instead of us using that, we have mine expertise in this country that is unlike any other, instead of us falling back on getting people in Zambia to put up a scheme and the money to do this, you go and get Sudanese to come and mine this gold and process this gold, what sort of people are these? Why are the people in this government doing this? Even a child can see that we have wrong people in government, even a child can see that,” he said.

“First of all, the Chinese have taken over everything. Now someone needs to go and negotiate, pay even more money, that’s US$5 million, it may even be a lot more because you know when people negotiate, anything that they manage to reschedule, they get a percentage of that. So that K90 million, that is just the beginning, if they can move the Eurobonds, they will get a percentage of that but that’s not free money, it goes back to us, to what we owe and the reason why they are doing this so that we can have space so that if now they are saying instead of paying next year, you pay the other year, they want to get more space to go and borrow more money.”

And Milupi lamented that foreigners had too much influence over Zambia’s resources.

“And that is why you see that they have turned this country into what we call a foreign centric country, that everything has got to be done by outsiders, anybody who is involved, you see, there is very little corruption between Zambian and Zambian, Now if you have over borrowed, even at a family level and you now want to go and negotiate with those that you have borrowed from so that instead of paying next month they can extend it, you go there, you don’t go and borrow money from somewhere else and say ‘I want to pay someone to go and negotiate for me’,” said Milupi.

“That is why you see that a number of foreigners, whether it’s a Chinese, the Indians and so on, they are the ones now who are getting things, whether it is land, licenses, contracts and so on because that is where there is high volume corruption because a corrupt person believes that ‘if I am involved with a foreigner, the chances of them talking are very slim but if I am involved with a Zambian’, especially if that Zambian is not from your tribe, then they will talk. So you see, this corruption encourages tribalism that we see, it also encourages this moving the assets and the status of the country into foreign hands.”