FORMER Secretary to the Cabinet in Levy Mwanawasa’s government Leslie Mbula says misinformation and untruthfulness on the donation of bicycles to the Ministry of Home Affairs has reduced international confidence on the operations of government.

And MMD president Nevers Mumba says the misinformation is an embarrassment and setback for Zambia.

In an interview, Mbula said the conflicting statements on the police bicycles did not help in creating confidence both to the international and local people.

“Misinformation is about untruthfulness and when you are untruthful, you cannot be believed, you cannot be trusted both by your own people and all these people that are trying to help you, whether they are the international community or the local people. When we say something, we should think about it, we should reflect over it before it is fed to the members of the public because changing statements does not help a lot in creating confidence, truthfulness and faith in the population,” Mbula said.

“When you speak truthfully and consistently, the international community has confidence in you, has faith in you. They know that whatever they give you shall be put to proper use and that they will not come up with stories saying ‘this and that is not truthful’. So, truthfulness is very cardinal diplomatically, internationally, nationally, individually; truthfulness is number one. When you communicate something that is truthful, it’s like in a family, when you are married, you tell your wife that you have gone to point A, when you have gone to point B, it affects the marriages, it affects the confidence of your wife or your husband. Whatever we say, we have to be truthful and then when we do that, people are going to trust us, people are going to have confidence and faith in us.”

He added that care must be taken by political leaders when speaking on public issues as they represented the Zambian people to the international community.

“I remember Dr Mwanawasa telling me that for him, whatever he said in private, he said it in public. Whatever he said publicly, that is what he did in private, that is integrity and anybody that is elected, people look to that type of integrity on those they have elected. To be honourable means you speak the truth and only the truth. When you speak the truth, you become consistent because the truth will never change. When you say something truthfully, you can’t say again something else because you said the truth,” said Mbula.

“When you say the truth, not just the populace in Zambia are watching but also the international community and the image of the country is portrayed by those people who are elected by the population to represent them. Whatever comes out of the mouth of the person elected depicts the image of the country. So, care must be taken on what we say on any public issue or any issue that affects the people of the country. We should speak and tell nothing but the truth about any event.”

And Mumba said the government owed the Zambians an apology for the misleading information about the police bicycles.

“It’s a very big setback diplomatically for Zambia, it is true that the government apologized to Japan but I think government must also apologize to Zambians for misleading [them]. It is not for the Zambian government to say that our relations have not been affected with Japan and the other countries; it is for Japan and those other countries to make that statement. As a diplomat, I feel extremely embarrassed that we handled a situation in the manner in which we did. First of all, no Minister can implicate another country from an official point of view on an issue that is non-existent,” Mumba, the former High Commissioner to Canada, said.

“It is extremely undiplomatic and it creates diplomatic problems between our two countries. Again, there is no Minister who should make a statement that he is unsure of, which relates to another country. The thing that needs to happen is that the President should call out that Minister and let him know that he had gone out of his way and that he should never again delve into such kind of behavior.”

He added that government should not take the misinformation of the donation lightly as Zambia was looking like a banana republic on the international scene.

“I know my colleagues in government do not think this is a serious matter but the international community is looking at us like a banana republic that does not even know where a donation came from and yet it is in our position… When I deputized President Mwanawasa, when he was in New York and he was informed that the vice-president had made a statement concerning the Congo which really was not true, it was made by the deputy minister of the Copperbelt Province and I was just in that meeting, I said ‘I have taken note of that position that you have raised on Congo and I will report it to the President’,” said Mumba.

“When the president landed from New York, he was given the information that I made that statement about Congo and if you remember, he censured me right at the airport and it actually resulted to my losing office. I have used that example to show you how seriously matters that involve other nations are considered. We hope that the President will take this seriously and ensure that the dignity of our country is preserved.”