Defence Minister Davies Chama has refuted Russian media reports that government had started renegotiating with that country’s government to complete the purchase of a presidential super jet.
Russian media outlets, ch-aviation and Sputnik News, reported on November 19, 2020, that Zambia had intentions to go ahead with the purchase of the plane despite being on the brink of bankruptcy.
“Despite the country teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Zambia is to go ahead with the purchase of a new presidential superjet from Russia, according to reports from Moscow. This comes as holders of Zambia’s Eurobonds rejected on November 13 a request from the Zambian government to defer interest payments, setting the country on a path towards becoming Africa’s first COVID-era sovereign default. Meanwhile, Zambia’s ambassador in Moscow, Shadreck Luwita, said that the country was renegotiating the delivery of a SSJ 100/95 ordered from Russia two years ago. The aircraft would replace the current presidential jet, the 17-year-old Bombardier Business Aircraft Challenger 604 9J-ONE (msn 5486). The new jet was due to have been delivered in 2019. However, due to lack of funding the delivery was rescheduled to 2020 – but then delayed again because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zambia had considered buying an additional four jets, but Luwita said that no new deliveries were being negotiated for the time being, as the country was still awaiting the arrival of the first one,” reported ch-aviation.
And Sputnik News quoted Zambia’s ambassador to Russia Shadreck Luwita saying that the super jet was scheduled to be delivered this year but that the lockdown in that country implied that there need to reschedule.
But in an interview, Chama said government was not that irresponsible that it could renegotiate the purchase of a plane whilst implementing austerity measures.
“The Ministry of Defence moves the President. And we have a plane right now with the Zambia Air Force that is being used to move the President around. So, we have enough planes to move the President, you mean we can be that irresponsible to start procuring another plane for moving the President again, does that make sense? Even according to you, does it make sense? There is no substance. That is fake news, we need to interrogate these facts. I know we are being reported by the international media and people are alleging that the President is trying to procure an international plane, and we are not that irresponsible people, not at all,” Chama said.
“We are very responsible people. So there is nothing to that story, it’s fake news. They are saying we started procuring this last year but we started implementing austerity measures last year. That cannot be true, it can’t be factual. Even if I am not in charge of procurement, I can just tell you that there is no substance there. I can tell you that we are not trying to negotiate. It’s a lie and just a fabrication, there are a lot of people that want to dent the image of Zambia. There are trying to insinuate that we are that kind of irresponsible people but we are not. We are very responsible, we are concerned about the welfare of the people of Zambia.”
He insisted that government was focused on reviving the economy instead of reckless spending.
“When we said that we are implementing austerity measures, we mean it. We have been implementing austerity measures since last year so how can we be so reckless to start purchasing expensive things when we are implementing austerity measures? Someone just wants to dent the image of Zambia. We are so responsible we want to bring the economy of this country back to its foot. That is our focus,” said Chama.
“I’m not aware of those reports. I’m not in charge of procurement so I’m completely not aware of such reports. I’m not aware of any negotiations over a presidential plane. I would [not] go and talk more because I’m not aware. But as far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned, we never procured any plane. I don’t know, maybe you are better off getting in touch with the people that are in charge of procurement. There are a lot of rumors going round, some are not factual, there is a lot of rumour mongering I don’t know why by the international media, there are innuendos in the international media being peddled around and I don’t understand why.”