FOREIGN Affairs Minister Joe Malanji says he cannot be so stupid to steal money from government and buy something like a helicopter which everyone is going to see.

Explaining his newly acquired K30 million helicopter, the Kwacha Constituency lawmaker said he spent US$1.4 million (about K30.5 million) to venture into air charter business.

In the past few days, Malanji’s wealth has been a subject if discussion on social media with critics alleging that he bought the helicopter at US$8.4 million (about K185.5 million), a claim the minister denies.

In an interview, Malanji who is fondly known as “bonanza” in his constituency due to his philanthropic activities, insisted that he was a businessman and his source of income was legitimate.

“Yes it is true I bought a helicopter. As usual in the media they want to exaggerate things that I bought it at US$8.4 million, do you know that you can buy two challengers like the presidential one? That helicopter I bought from South Africa and the records are there it is traceable US$1.4 million that is what I said and that is not the first property I have bought of that value. People must think and even last time I told you, I deliberately don’t participate in government contracts whether we are able to bid favourably [or not]. It is for that reason. I am a business person and there is no Act which says when you come to parliament, you should be engaged by a parliamentary salary, far from it,” Malanji said.

He said Zambians must be happy that a fellow citizens is investing in the air charter business which is usually dominated by foreigners.

“I can tell you that I don’t even use a parliamentary salary. My businesses are outside Zambia. It is a legitimate source of income and I have decided to go into air charter. Why should we always leave business to foreigners when we can do it as Zambians? It is for tourism business. How do you buy a helicopter for campaigns? That is the problem in Zambia, they would be happy to see somebody of Asian origin, somebody from Scotland.”

He wondered how he could steal money to buy a helicopter which everyone was going to see.

“Can one honestly be stupid enough to steal money and buy something that everyone is going to see? I cannot hide what I legitimately own. You know very well that there are government systems. How do you steal a million dollar? When you look at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which contract can one say ‘let me get a kickback to buy a helicopter?’ he wondered.

“This is money legitimately owned and I am going into tourism just like the foreigners do. When you go to Livingstone, how many Zambians have got helicopters on the Victoria Falls? Of course it is a risk to go into air business because it is risky but that money is legitimately owned. Do they know what US$ 8.4 million is? They should look at somebody’s network internationally. I started my networking even before I became minister. I have been a businessman before I became minister,” said Malanji.